Battery bonanza


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Murderers in early 19th Century London sometimes tried to kill themselves before they were hanged.

Failing that, they asked friends to give their legs a good, hard pull as they dangled from the gallows to ensure their death. Their freshly hanged bodies, they knew, would be handed to scientists for anatomical studies.

They didn’t want to survive the hanging and regain consciousness while being dissected.

If George Foster, executed in 1803, had woken up on the lab table, it would have been in particularly undignified circumstances.

In front of an enthralled and slightly horrified London crowd, an Italian scientist with a flair for showmanship placed an electrode into Foster’s rectum.

Some onlookers thought Foster was waking up. The electrically charged probe caused his body to flinch and his fist to clench. Applied to his face, electrodes made his mouth grimace and an eye twitch open.

The scientist had modestly assured his audience that he wasn’t actually intending to bring Foster back to life, but added, “Who knows what might happen?”

The police were on hand, in case Foster needed hanging again.


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50 Things That Made the Modern Economy highlights the inventions, ideas and innovations which have helped create the economic world we live in.

It is broadcast on the BBC World Service. You can find more information about the programme’s sources and listen online or subscribe to the programme podcast.


Foster’s body was being galvanised – a word coined for Luigi Galvani, the Italian scientist’s uncle.

In 1780s Italy, Galvani had discovered that touching the severed legs of a dead frog with two different types of metal caused the legs to jerk.

Wrong in a useful way

Galvani thought he had discovered “animal electricity”, and his nephew was carrying on the investigations.

Galvanism briefly fascinated the public, inspiring Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein.

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Galvani discovered frogs’ legs would twitch when touched by electrodes

Galvani was wrong. There is no animal electricity.

You can’t bring hanged bodies back to life, and Victor Frankenstein’s monster remains safely in the realms of fiction.

But Galvani was wrong in a useful way, because he showed his experiments to his friend Alessandro Volta, who had better intuition about what was going on.

The important thing, Volta realised, wasn’t that the frog flesh was of animal origin.

It was that it contained fluids which conducted electricity, allowing a charge to pass between the different types of metal.

When the two metals connected – Galvani’s scalpel touching the brass hook on which the legs were hung – the circuit was complete, and a chemical reaction caused electrons to flow.

Volta experimented with different combinations of metal and different substitutes for frogs’ legs. In 1800, he showed that you could generate a constant, steady current by piling up sheets of zinc, copper and brine-soaked cardboard.

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Alessandro Volta described his findings in a letter to the President of the Royal Society, Sir Joseph Banks, in March 1800

Volta had invented the battery, and gave us a new word – volt. His insight won him admirers. Napoleon made him a count.

The lithium breakthrough

But it wasn’t especially practical, not at first.

The metals corroded, the salt water spilled, the current was short-lived, and it couldn’t be recharged.

It was 1859 before we got the first rechargeable battery, made from lead, lead dioxide and sulphuric acid. It was bulky, heavy, and acid sloshed out if you tipped it over. But it was useful – the same basic design still starts our cars.

The first “dry” cells – the familiar modern battery – came in 1886. The next big breakthrough took another century.

In 1985, Akira Yoshino patented the lithium-ion battery, later commercialised by Sony.

Lithium was popular with researchers as it’s very light and highly reactive: lithium-ion batteries can pack lots of power into a small space.

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Lithium-ion batteries power many popular devices.

Unfortunately, lithium also has an alarming tendency to explode when exposed to air and water, so it took some clever chemistry to make it acceptably stable.

Without the lithium-ion battery, mobiles would likely have been much slower to catch on.

Consider what cutting-edge battery technology looked like in 1985.

Motorola had just launched the world’s first mobile phone, the DynaTAC 8000x. Known affectionately as “the brick”, it weighed nearly 1kg. Its talk time was 30 minutes.


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The technology behind lithium-ion batteries has certainly improved: 1990s laptops were clunky and discharged rapidly. Today’s sleek ultraportables will last for a long-haul flight.

Still, battery life has improved at a much slower rate than other laptop components, such as memory and processing power.

Where’s the battery that’s light and cheap, recharges in seconds, and never deteriorates with repeated use? We’re still waiting.

But there is no shortage of researchers looking for the next breakthrough.

Some are developing “flow” batteries, which work by pumping charged liquid electrolytes.

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Harvard researchers working on “flow” batteries have identified a new class of organic molecules, inspired by vitamin B2, that can safely store electricity

Some are experimenting with new materials to combine with lithium, including sulphur and air. Some are using nanotechnology in the wires of electrodes to make batteries last longer.

But history counsels caution: game changers haven’t come along often.

Can batteries boost the grid?

In the coming decades, the truly revolutionary development in batteries may not be in the technology itself, but in its uses.

We think of batteries as things that allow us to disconnect from the grid. We may soon see them as the thing that makes the grid work better.

Gradually, the cost of renewable energy is coming down. But even cheap renewables pose a problem – they don’t generate power all the time.

You’ll always have a glut of solar power on summer days and none on winter evenings. When the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, you need coal or gas or nuclear to keep the lights on, so why not run them all the time?

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Solar panels cannot deliver power all the time – even in sunny spots

A recent study of south-eastern Arizona’s grid weighed the costs of power cuts against the costs of CO2 emissions, and concluded that solar should provide just 20% of power. And Arizona is pretty sunny.

Grids need better ways of storing energy to better exploit renewable power.

One time-honoured solution is pumping water uphill when you have spare energy, and then – when you need more – letting it flow back down through a hydropower plant. But that requires conveniently contoured terrain.

Could batteries be the solution?

Perhaps. It depends partly on the extent to which regulators nudge the industry in that direction, and on how quickly battery costs come down.

Elon Musk hopes they’ll come down very quickly indeed.

The entrepreneur behind electric car maker Tesla is building a gigantic lithium-ion battery factory in Nevada. Musk claims it will be the second-largest building in the world, after the one where Boeing manufactures its 747s.

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Quick-charging car batteries are essential for electric cars

Tesla is betting that it can significantly wrestle down the costs of lithium-ion production, not through technological breakthroughs, but through sheer economies of scale.

Tesla needs the batteries for its vehicles, of course. But it’s also among the companies already offering battery packs to homes, businesses and power grids.

If you have solar panels on your roof, a battery in your house gives you the option of storing your surplus day-time energy for night-time use, rather than selling it back to the grid.

We’re still a long way from a world in which electricity grids and transport networks can operate entirely on renewables and batteries.

But in the race to limit climate change, the world needs something to galvanise it into action.

The biggest impact of Alessandro Volta’s invention may be only just beginning.

Tim Harford writes the Financial Times’s Undercover Economist column. 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy is broadcast on the BBC World Service. You can find more information about the programme’s sources and listen online or subscribe to the programme podcast.



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Mr Fixer


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Aaron Simpson’s company helps its clients arrange many aspects of their lives

If you were ever worried that your loved one might reject your marriage proposal, spare a thought for one romantic Saudi prince.

The member of the country’s royal family had hired the Egyptian pyramids, and flown in 300 friends and family members to watch while he popped the question in front of the ancient structures.

With a lavish private party then due to be held at the site, which was sealed off from locals and other visitors, the cost was an eye-watering $40m (£31m).

Thankfully for the prince, his girlfriend said “yes”.

When it comes to marriage proposals, this example takes largesse to the nth degree. But even if you have the cash, how the heck would you go about organising such an event?

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Other party venues are available

The answer for the Saudi prince was simply to phone his concierge services provider, a UK business called Quintessentially.

“We made it happen,” says Quintessentially’s chief executive and co-founder Aaron Simpson.

Global reach

For those of us that aren’t millionaires or billionaires, the concierge services industry needs a little explaining.

Taking its name from the man or woman at posh hotels who can book guests theatre tickets and get them into top restaurants, the sector has discreetly grown up over the past 15 or so years.

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Quintessentially

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Quintessentially organises luxury holidays for its clients – among many other services

And far from just securing tickets for the latest sell-out play, or a table at some hotshot chef’s new venture, concierge firms are being used to organise many aspects of clients’ lives.

At Quintessentially, which has 70 offices around the world, and 2,500 members of staff, it does everything from organising holidays, to advising clients about private schools, helping buy properties, arranging private concerts by pop stars, or booking a dog walker.

And then there is the weird and wonderful stuff, such as making a client a bouquet of “flowers” made from 100 folded 1,000 Hong Kong dollar notes, so he could give it to his partner on Valentine’s Day.

Or covering an entire beach with carpets so a member and his girlfriend didn’t have to get sand on their feet, and organising a flash mob in New York’s Times Square.

The firm is one of the largest in the sector, and while Quintessentially doesn’t reveal its client numbers or price details, it is estimated to have about 100,000 customers around the world, including 800 billionaires who pay up to £150,000 a year.

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The company has arranged for Elton John to give private concerts

Mr Simpson, 45, says that the firm’s 2,500 employees, known as “lifestyle managers”, can, generally speaking, make anything happen.

“We can arrange most things – unless of course it is illegal or there is a moral objection to it, and that very rarely happens – perhaps once or twice a year,” he says.

“But otherwise everything is pretty solvable.”

Born and bred in Essex, after studying geography at Oxford University, Mr Simpson spent his early 20s working as a film producer.

But given the continuing weakness of the UK film industry, by age 27 he was looking for a change of career.

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Quintessentially staff can advise on art investments

After brainstorming sessions with friends Ben Elliot and Paul Drummond, they came up with the idea for Quintessentially.

Securing investment from a group of private investors, the business was launched in London in 2000 with a party to which they invited more than 200 movers and shakers. Customer numbers then grew strongly thanks to positive word of mouth.

While Quintessentially won’t reveal any members’ details, it is widely reported that it is used by the likes of singer Madonna, Indian steel giant Lakshmi Mittal, UK entrepreneur Richard Branson, author JK Rowling and rap star P Diddy.

The company also works closely with 400 premium brands including Ferrari, Channel, Gucci and British Airways.

In addition to running “white label” concierge services for such companies, Quintessentially has expanded its operations in recent years to helping firms with their public relations and marketing, and assisting them in studying customer data to best plan new products and services.

Mr Simpson says that the company now enjoys an annual turnover of £150m, and he intends to continue to grow this. He adds that despite numerous suitors, he and his two co-founders have no plans to sell up.

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Quintessentially

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The three founder are (left to right), Ben Elliot, Aaron Simpson and Paul Drummond

Alyssa Haak, a New York-based luxury lifestyle expert, says that Quintessentially and other concierge firms have grown in popularity among the world elite because the ease of having someone else book or arrange things for you is “too good to pass up”.

However, she is sceptical of one forthcoming Quintessentially project; its plans to build a 250m euro ($272m; £211m) “super yacht” for members.

Due to launch in three years time, the floating private club will be 220m (722ft) long and have 100 rooms, as well as a nightclub, bars and numerous restaurants.

Quintessentially’s aim is to move it around the world to places where demand for hotel rooms is likely to exceed those locally available, such as Monaco when it is hosting the Formula 1 Grand Prix, or Cannes during the city’s film festival.

Ms Haak says: “I’m really very sceptical of it for a few reasons… there have been a number of firms that have attempted to do yacht ‘shares’ that have slowly disappeared.

“Yachts are personal, even those that are built with chartering in mind block out the dates the owners want to use them.

“Finally, and I think its biggest problem is going to be dockage… a yacht this size will never be able to get ‘front row seats’.”

‘Shouting range’

While the three co-founders still run Quintessentially together, Mr Simpson has the boss role, although he says the three men simply “play to their strengths”, and he “doesn’t necessarily see myself as the leader”.

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Quintessentially is launching a “super yacht” in three years’ time

He admits, though, to always having been very driven to succeed in life, but says he hopes that he is a good boss “who puts his colleagues first”.

Travelling extensively for the company over the years, overseeing the opening of new offices around the world, Mr Simpson says that since having children – he and his wife have two young daughters – he now tries to travel far less.

“I have a three-line whip to stay within shouting range,” he says.



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Delta Pilot Slaps Woman Passenger During Scuffle In US


The incident happened on April 21 when passengers were deboarding a flight in Atlanta.

New York:  A Delta Airlines pilot slapped a woman who was fighting with a fellow passenger as he tried to break up a fight between them in the aircraft, according to a media report.

The incident happened on April 21 when passengers were deboarding a flight in Atlanta in the US and two women got in a physical altercation.

A nearly 30-second recording shows one woman throw a piece of clothing at another woman at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, New York Daily reported.

The women begin shoving each other, knocking bystanders out of the way – almost toppling a woman in a wheelchair.

The two begin to roll on the ground of the jetway and pull each other’s hair before the pilot intervenes, striking one woman in the face then walking away, the report said.

A Delta employee handed over the recording to a supervisor later.

The airline suspended the pilot as soon as it found out about the video. He returned to work after investigators found “his actions deescalated an altercation,” a Delta spokesman said.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Qatar Upholds Rare Death Sentence In UK Teacher's Murder


Doha court upheld death penalty in retrial of a Qatari man convicted of murdering a teacher.

Doha, Qatar:  A Doha court on Sunday upheld the death penalty in the retrial of a Qatari man convicted of murdering a 24-year-old British female teacher.

Badr Hashim Khamis Abdallah al-Jabr was found guilty of stabbing Lauren Patterson and then burning her body in the Qatari desert in October 2013.

“The defendant was fully aware of the consequences of his actions,” Doha’s court of cassation ruled.

It said that Jabr, who was not in court, should face the death penalty, the original verdict handed down in 2014.

Use of capital punishment is rare in Qatar, with the last known case of the death penalty being carried out thought to date back to 2003.

The judge said that any death penalty would be carried out by hanging or shooting.

Lauren’s mother, Alison, who has regularly travelled to the Gulf for hearings, was in court on Sunday.

She wept as details of the crime were read out and afterwards hugged other family members and friends who were present.

Earlier this month, she said before the same court that she did not want to forgive Jabr, although she had told AFP she did not believe in the death penalty.

Jabr had previously been convicted of the murder and sentenced to death, but that ruling was quashed, prompting Sunday’s retrial.

In a lengthy verdict read out in court on Sunday, the judge dismissed all aspects of Jabr’s defence.

The defence argued at various times that he had acted in self-defence, was mentally incapable at the time of the murder, was interrogated by police without a lawyer and that the young teacher had committed suicide.

But the judge said “several consequential strands of evidence” pointed to Jabr’s guilt.

He recounted how the Qatari and the British teacher had met at a central Doha hotel.

They then left the hotel and went back to a property owned by Jabr, where they had sex, said the judge.

Previous court evidence had heard the schoolteacher had been sexually assaulted.

It was afterwards that Jabr attacked Patterson, a teacher in Qatar from Kent in southeast England, stabbing her with a knife which had a 20-centimetre (almost eight-inch) blade, the court heard.

Her body was then taken to the desert and burned on charcoal bricks.

Patterson’s remains were discovered several hours later by members of a local tribe, alerted by the smell of the burning, the court was told.

Jabr’s accomplice Mohamed Abdallah Hassan Abdul Aziz, who helped to burn the body, was previously sentenced to three years in jail.

The Briton’s murder was one of two high-profile cases involving Western teachers in Qatar in recent years.

In 2012, Jennifer Brown, a newly-arrived US teacher from Pennsylvania, was murdered by a Kenyan security guard, Alvine Moseti Anyona, who is now serving life in prison.



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South Korea Says US Reaffirms to Pay THAAD Costs; Trump Calls Asia Allies


SEOUL:  South Korea said the United States had reaffirmed it would shoulder the cost of deploying the THAAD anti-missile system, days after President Donald Trump said Seoul should pay for the $1-billion battery designed to defend against North Korea.

In a telephone call on Sunday, President Trump’s national security adviser, H R McMaster, reassured his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, that the US alliance with South Korea was its top priority in the Asia-Pacific region, the South’s presidential office said.

The conversation followed another North Korean missile test-launch on Saturday which Washington and Seoul said was unsuccessful, but which drew widespread international condemnation.

Donald Trump, asked about his message to North Korea after the latest missile test, told reporters: “You’ll soon find out”, but did not elaborate on what the U.S. response would be.

Trump is stepping up outreach to allies in Asia to discuss the North Korean nuclear threat and make sure all are “on the same page” if action was needed, a top White House official said. The US president will discuss North Korea with the leaders of Thailand and Singapore on Sunday after speaking with the Philippines’ president on Saturday.

“There is nothing right now facing this country and facing the region that is a bigger threat than what is happening in North Korea,” White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told ABC’s “This Week.”

Trump’s comments in an interview with Reuters on Thursday that he wanted Seoul to pay for the THAAD deployment perplexed South Koreans and raised questions about his commitment to the two countries’ alliance.

South Korean officials responded that the cost was for Washington to bear, under the bilateral agreement.

“National security adviser HR McMaster explained that the recent statements by President Trump were made in a general context, in line with the US public expectations on defence cost burden-sharing with allies,” South Korea’s Blue House said in a statement, adding that McMaster requested the call.

Major elements of the advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system were moved into the planned site in Seonjgu, in the south of the country, this week.
The deployment has drawn protests from China, which says the powerful radar which can penetrate its territory will undermine regional security, and from local residents worried they will be a target for North Korean missiles.

About 300 residents rallied on Sunday as two US Army lorries tried to enter the THAAD deployment site. Video provided by villagers showed protesters blocking the road with a car and chanting slogans such as “Don’t lie to us! Go back to your country!”

Police said they had sent about 800 officers to the site and two residents were injured during clashes with them.

South Korea and the United States say the sole purpose of THAAD is to guard against North Korean missiles.

Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to South Korea’s security but said on NBC that Trump would “continue to call on the prosperous nations that the United States provides security and protection for to do more in their own defense.”

The United States is seeking more help from China, the North’s major ally, to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development. Trump, in the Reuters interview, praised Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as a “good man”.

TENSIONS HIGH

The North has been conducting missile and nuclear weapons related activities at an unprecedented rate and is believed to have made progress in developing intermediate-range and submarine-launched missiles.

Tension on the Korean peninsula has been high for weeks over fears the North may conduct a long-range missile test, or its sixth nuclear test, around the time of the April 15 anniversary of its state founder’s birth.

In excerpts of an interview with CBS News released on Saturday, Trump said the United States and China would “not be happy” with a nuclear test but gave no other details.

Trump discussed the threat posed by North Korea in a telephone call with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, the White House said.

In an address to a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Saturday, Duterte urged the United States to show restraint after North Korea’s latest missile test and to avoid playing into the hands of leader Kim Jong Un, who “wants to end the world”.

Two-month long U.S.-South Korean joint military drills were due to conclude on Sunday, U.S. and South Korean officials said.

The exercise, called Foal Eagle, was repeatedly denounced by North Korea, which saw it as a rehearsal for war.

In a further show of force, the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group arrived in waters near the Korean peninsula and began exercises with the South Korean navy late on Saturday. The South Korean navy declined to say when the exercises would be completed.

The dispatch of the Carl Vinson was a “reckless action of the war maniacs aimed at an extremely dangerous nuclear war,” the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, said in a commentary on Saturday.

The carrier group has just completed drills with the Japanese navy.

Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada, in an apparent show of solidarity with Washington, has ordered the Izumo, Japan’s biggest warship, to protect a U.S. navy ship that might be going to help supply the USS Carl Vinson, the Asahi newspaper said.

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Donald Trump Says China Could Have Hacked Democratic Emails


Donald Trump has been dismissive of statements that Moscow hacked emails to help him win.

WASHINGTON:  President Donald Trump said China may have hacked the emails of Democratic officials to meddle with the 2016 presidential election, countering the view of US intelligence officials who have said Moscow orchestrated the hacks.

In an interview transcript published on Sunday, Trump gave no evidence backing his allegation, first made on the eve of the Nov. 8 presidential election, that China could have hacked the emails of his rivals.

“If you don’t catch a hacker, okay, in the act, it’s very hard to say who did the hacking,” the president said in an interview with CBS “Face the Nation.” “(It) could have been China, could have been a lot of different groups.”

The hackers roiled the presidential campaign by making public embarrassing emails sent by Democratic operatives and aides to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. One email showed party leaders favoring Clinton over her rival in the campaign for the party’s internal nomination contest.

Trump has been dismissive of the statements by intelligence officials that Moscow hacked the emails to help Trump win the election. During the Sept 26 presidential debate with Clinton, Trump said China was one of many actors that could have been behind the hack, including “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

Like Russia, China is a longstanding cybersecurity adversary of the United States. Trump in recent weeks has softened his criticism of Chinese trade policies as Washington seeks Beijing’s support in diffusing military tensions with North Korea.

Before Trump was elected, he pledged to improve relations with Moscow. Russia has denied any involvement in the hacks. Lawmakers are currently investigating whether Trump’s campaign team had ties with Russia.

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Donald Trump Says North Korea's Kim Is 'A Pretty Smart Cookie'


Donald Trump offered some backhanded praise for North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in a TV interview.

Washington, United States:  US President Donald Trump offered some backhanded praise for North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, calling him “a pretty smart cookie” in a television interview that aired Sunday.

Trump’s almost admiring remarks came amid soaring tensions with North Korea over its missile and nuclear programs, with an alarmed Washington looking to China for help in reining in Kim.

Trump said he had “no idea” whether Kim was sane or not, but said the North Korean leader had faced a formidable challenge in taking over the country at a reported age of 27 after his father’s death in 2011.

“He’s dealing with obviously very tough people, in particular the generals and others. And at a very young age, he was able to assume power,” Trump said in the interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“A lot of people, I’m sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it.

“So obviously, he’s a pretty smart cookie,” he said.

“But we have a situation that we just cannot let — we cannot let what’s been going on for a long period of years continue,” Trump added.

North Korea test-fired another missile on Saturday, the latest in a drumbeat that has aroused US fears that the regime may be close to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead.

South Korea said the latest test was a failure. Trump refused comment on whether the United States had anything to do with the test failure.

“It is a chess game. I just don’t want people to know what my thinking is. So eventually, he will have a better delivery system. And if that happens, we can’t allow it to happen.”

Hours before the North Korean test, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned of “catastrophic consequences” if the international community does not act more forcefully to sanction Pyongyang.

The United States has deployed a naval strike group to the area led by the carrier USS Carl Vinson, which on Saturday began drilling with the South Korean navy.



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Scotland Yard Guard To Protect Queen's Household Cavalry


The increased protection is believed to be a precautionary measure.

London:  An armed Scotland Yard guard has been deployed near the Buckingham Palace to protect Queen Elizabeth II’s Household Cavalry during ceremonial duties to counter the heightened terror threat in London.

The operation to defend the mounted regiment – the oldest and most senior in the British Army – comes as thickets of metal and concrete barriers spring up across central London to protect the public from the Westminster Bridge-like attack which claimed four lives last month.

Police were escorting the Household Cavalry last week during the daily changing of the Queen’s Life Guard, The Sunday Times reported.

Armed response vehicles drove in front of and behind the main procession of mounted soldiers as they rode from Hyde Park Barracks to Horse Guards Parade and then – after the change of guard – up the Mall towards the Buckingham Palace.

The hourly change of the Household Cavalry sentries on Whitehall, a major tourist attraction, is also supervised by armed police with assault rifles.

The increased protection is believed to be a precautionary measure rather than a response to specific intelligence.

The Household Cavalry, consisting of the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals regiments, have stood at Horse Guards Parade near the Palace since the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, and their ceremonial duties draw thousands of tourists each day.

The mounted soldiers are battle-hardened troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prince William and Prince Harry have both been officers in the Blues and Royals.

Armed police patrols also operate on all public entrances to Parliament, including the carriage gates that Khalid Masood entered last month before killing a police officer with a knife.

The attack was among a string of recent the Islamic State terror outfit inspired massacres involving cars and lorries in the European cities, including Nice, Berlin and Stockholm.

The threat of another such attack has led to the installation of “heavy vehicle mitigation barriers” in vulnerable locations. The longest is near Green Park on Piccadilly in central London.

The Metropolitan Police said it did not comment on security matters.



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Pak Extends Hafiz Saeed's House Arrest By 90 More Days


Hafiz Saeed has been under house arrest in Lahore since January 30.

Lahore:  Pakistan has decided to extend the duration of the house arrest of Mumbai attack mastermind and Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed by 90 more days.

“The government has decided in principle to extend the house arrest of Hafiz Saeed, Prof Malik Zafar Iqbal, Abdur Rehman Abid, Qazi Kashif Hussain and Abdullah Ubaid for another 90 days,” an official of the Punjab government said.

The news was revealed just hours before his three-month detention was to come to an end tonight.

The official said the decision to extend the house arrest was taken in a meeting held by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar.

The government on January 30 had put Saeed and the four leaders under house arrest in Lahore for their alleged involvement in activities prejudicial to peace and security. The house arrest was made for a period of 90 days ending tonight.

“The government has decided in principle to extend the house arrest of Hafiz Saeed, Prof Malik Zafar Iqbal, Abdur Rehman Abid, Qazi Kashif Hussain and Abdullah Ubaid for another 90 days” under preventive detention, he said.

According to media reports, the Nawaz Sharif government had detained Saeed after the Trump administration had told Pakistan that it may face sanctions if it did not act against Jamaat-ud Dawa 
 or JuD and its chief.

The JuD, the front group of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, and its sister organisation Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), had also been put under terror watch on the basis of a report sent by the ministry of foreign affairs.



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Swiss 'tax spy' arrested in Germany


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Frankfurt is Germany’s financial capital

A Swiss man has been arrested in Frankfurt on suspicion of spying.

German federal prosecutors said the man was suspected of having worked “for the intelligence service of a foreign power” since early 2012.

Reports suggest the man may have spied on German tax investigators.

Tax authorities in Germany have controversially bought CDs of information from whistleblowers in Swiss banks as they try to catch German residents with Swiss bank accounts.

The issue has caused friction between the Swiss and German governments. Authorities in Germany’s federal states have justified the hefty payments by saying the information gained would lead to much larger sums in unpaid taxes being retrieved.

But Switzerland thinks paying people who steal information from Swiss banks is wrong.

German football star’s own goal on tax

The 54-year-old, named only as Daniel M, was taken into custody on Friday, prosecutors said, but an arrest warrant had been issued for him in December.

Several residential and business premises in Frankfurt and the nearby Wetterau region were searched by officers from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).



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China Deports US Woman Convicted Of 'Spying'


Sandy Phan-Gillis was detained in March 2015 at the Macau border.

Washington:  An American woman held for more than two years by China has been deported to the United States after being convicted of espionage, the US State Department confirmed on Sunday.

Sandy Phan-Gillis was detained in March 2015 at the Macau border after visiting mainland China with a trade delegation from the Texas oil capital Houston.

She was accused of espionage, stealing state secrets and allegedly passing on intelligence to a third party. She was sentenced Wednesday to three and a half years in prison and deportation.

“We are aware that Chinese authorities deported Ms. Phan-Gillis back to the United States,” a State Department official said. “The United States welcomes her home.”

A human rights group based in San Francisco, Dui Hua, said Phan-Gillis was deported on Friday and arrived home the same day in Los Angeles.

“She was met upon arrival by her husband and members of her family,” the group said in a statement.

Her return to the US comes three weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping met US President Donald Trump in Florida, amid a warming of ties between the two countries.

Since that first face-to-face meeting, the two presidents “have been in constant touch with each other,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Friday.

Dui Hua said negotiations to secure the release of Phan-Gillis were stepped up during US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Beijing in March 2017.

“Tillerson’s State Department was assisted by the White House in bringing the negotiations to a successful conclusion.”

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention last year denounced China’s handling of the case, saying it had not observed “international norms relating to the right to a fair trial and to liberty and security.”

Violations by Chinese authorities were of “such gravity as to give the deprivation of liberty of Ms. Phan-Gillis an arbitrary character,” it noted in a report released last July.

Phan-Gillis was held for six months at a secret location and later at a detention center in Guangxi, where she was initially put in solitary confinement, the working group said.

Her husband Jeff Gillis had campaigned for her freedom, setting up a website “savesandy.org” which has now been taken down.

According to an archived version of the site, Phan-Gillis has family origins in southern China but was born in Vietnam.

She left that country in the late 1970s as part of the exodus of “boat people” who fled Communist rule.



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Turkish authorities block Wikipedia without giving reason


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Getty Images/PeterMacdiarmid

Image caption

Turkish people awoke to find all access to Wikipedia had been blocked

Turkey has blocked all access inside the country to the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

Officials said “an administrative measure” had been taken, but gave no reason why.

Turkish media said authorities had asked Wikipedia to remove content by writers “supporting terror”.

Turkey has temporarily blocked social media sites including Facebook and Twitter in the past, usually following protests or terror attacks.

The Turkey Blocks monitoring group said Wikipedia was unreachable from 08:00 (05:00 GMT). People in Istanbul were unable to access any pages without using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

“After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the Law Nr. 5651 [governing the internet], an administrative measure has been taken for this website,” Turkey’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority was quoted as saying, giving no further details.

However, the Hurriyet daily newspaper said Wikipedia had been asked to remove content by certain writers whom the authorities accuse of “supporting terror” and of linking Turkey to terror groups. The site had not responded to the demands, Hurriyet said, and the ban was imposed as a result.

Turkey Blocks and Turkish media, including Hurriyet, said the provisional order would need to be backed by a full court ruling in the next few days.


Another day, another outage – by Mark Lowen, BBC Turkey Correspondent

It’s become all too familiar here: the endless “loading” icon followed by the message “server timed out”.

Blocking websites is a common tool of the Turkish authorities: Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have suffered the same fate several times, and numerous anti-government sites are inaccessible.

Critics say it smacks of Turkey’s repression of free speech: over half of all requests to Twitter to remove content have come from Turkey, and the country now ranks 155 of 180 in the press freedom index of the watchdog Reporters without Borders.


Social media was in uproar as news of the ban emerged, with some users speculating that it might be a bid to suppress criticism on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Wikipedia page.

Mr Erdogan narrowly won a controversial 16 April referendum on increasing his powers, but the issue has deeply divided the country.

One Twitter user noted that the Wikipedia page on Turkey’s referendum has a section on “controversies and electoral misconduct”, and cites claims that the government suppressed the No campaign through “arrests, control of the media and political suppression”.

Image copyright
Twitter/AbuSteeve

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Twitter/Balkans123

The Turkish government has previously denied censoring the internet, blaming outages on spikes in usage after major events.

Wikipedia has also faced censorship in other countries, including a temporary ban in Russia, and repeated crackdowns in China.



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Passenger Plane In Near-Miss Incident With Two Drones In UK


The plane was flying at 5,500 feet when its crew spotted two drones nearby. (Representational image)

London:  A passenger jet approaching Heathrow Airport was involved in a near-miss incident with two drones, the first such recorded instance in the UK.

Scotland Yard was informed after the incident in November last year, but the drones’ operators have not been found, a report by the UK Airprox Board (UKAB) said this week.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it was the first time a near-miss incident involving more than one drone.

The incident occurred over east London as an Airbus A320 was approaching Heathrow Airport on November 20 last year.

The UKAB report concluded that the incident had “compromised the safety of the aircraft”.

“The board considers that the drone operator had endangered the A320 and its occupants,” the report said.

One pilot also said there would have been a “significant risk of collision” if the jet had been on a different approach path.

The plane was flying at 5,500 feet when its crew spotted two white, orb-shaped drones nearby.

The pilots “remained in constant visual contact” with the gadgets, which are estimated to have got as close as 500 metre to the aircraft, according to the report.

Less than 30 minutes later, a Boeing 777 approaching Heathrow flew within 50 metre of what is believed to have been one of the drones, described as white, about 2 metre wide and with four prongs. It was believed to be one of the drones spotted earlier.

According to the UKAB’s monthly reports, there have been five near-misses between aircraft and drones in March, bringing the total to 62 over the past 12 months.

Under CAA rules, drones must not be flown above 400 feet or near airports or airfields.

Last year, more than 3,456 incidents involving drones were recorded, compared to only 1,237 in 2015. The incidents include invasions of privacy, disputes between neighbours and prison smuggling.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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EU outlines Brexit negotiating stance


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AFP

Image caption

Donald Tusk wants a serious response from the UK

European Council President Donald Tusk has called on the UK to come up with a “serious response” on what will happen to EU citizens in Britain after Brexit.

“We need guarantees,” he said in Brussels as 27 EU leaders backed the bloc’s Brexit negotiating guidelines.

The rights of EU citizens to live, work and study in the UK is one of three topics they want dealt with in the first phase of Brexit talks.

Negotiations will start after the UK election on 8 June.

Mr Tusk put citizens’ rights centre stage at a news conference after EU leaders – minus UK PM Theresa May – nodded through the guidelines in a matter of minutes.

“Over the past weeks, we have repeatedly heard from our British friends, also during my visit in London, that they are ready to agree on this issue quickly,” he said.

“But I would like to state very clearly that we need real guarantees for our people to live, work and study in the UK.

“The same goes for the Brits,” living on the European continent, he continued.

UK citizens living in EU countries and non-UK EU citizens living in Britain are estimated at 4.5 million.


The guidelines: Key points

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EPA

  • “Divorce” settlement – first phase of talks dealing with existing UK financial commitments to the EU, Northern Ireland border, residence rights of EU citizens
  • UK trade agreement to be discussed only when first phase of talks reaches “significant progress”
  • Unity in negotiations – individual EU members won’t negotiate separately with UK
  • No cherry picking from bits of the single market

Reality check: Key points explained


The EU’s negotiating guidelines, first proposed by Mr Tusk in March, list citizens’ residency rights, settling Britain’s financial commitments to the EU and avoiding a “hard” border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland as the three top issues needing agreement in what are termed “separation talks”.

Only once “sufficient progress” is made on these topics can talks touch on the UK’s future relationship, including any trade deal, with the EU.

The UK government, however, has pushed for parallel negotiations on trade.

Applause

Speaking after the summit, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker again stressed that separation talks could not run in parallel with talks on a future trade deal with the UK, backing the line taken by German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she arrived in Brussels.

EU officials said leaders burst into applause as the negotiating stance was waved through at the summit.

EU leaders and officials were keen to stress the EU’s unified position on Brexit. Chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said: “We are ready… we are together.”

Expats, exports, security: What’s worrying the EU about Brexit?

Brexit: All you need to know

The people who will negotiate Brexit

Brexit – special report


Common purpose: Chris Morris in Brussels

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Reuters

The fact that the guidelines approved today haven’t changed all that much in the past month shows that the EU’s claim to have a unified position on Brexit is more than skin deep.

The other 27 countries do see a common purpose in sticking together; and if anything the main changes in language – on a single financial settlement and on the rights of EU citizens in the UK – toughen up the conditions that the UK will have to meet.

Of course there are differences of emphasis in different national capitals – Poland is understandably more concerned than most about the rights of its citizens in the UK because there are so many of them; the Dutch are eager to start talks on future trade relations with the UK sooner rather than later, but they also want to ensure that the UK pays its divorce bill in full.

For now the emphasis on unity is real, and the determination for the EU to negotiate as one should not be underestimated in London.


Speaking earlier, French President François Hollande said there would inevitably be “a price and a cost for the UK – it’s the choice that was made”.

“We must not be punitive, but at the same time it’s clear that Europe knows how to defend its interests, and that Britain will have a weaker position in the future outside Europe, than it has today within Europe.”

On the issue of the UK’s financial obligations, EU officials estimate that Britain faces a bill of €60bn (£51bn; $65bn) because of EU budget rules. UK politicians have said the government will not pay a sum of that size.

Britain certainly won’t tamely accept that it has to pay a huge divorce bill – but it’s likely to find the Europeans united on the concept if not the precise amount, the BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Brussels says.

UK Brexit Secretary David Davis said in response that both sides wanted the negotiations to be conducted with goodwill.

But he added: “There is no doubt that these negotiations are the most complex the UK has faced in our lifetimes. They will be tough and, at times even confrontational”.


Brexit timetable:

  • 29 April – EU leaders (excluding the UK) meet in Brussels to adopt Brexit negotiating guidelines
  • 7 May – French voters decide between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen as their next president
  • 8 June – UK parliamentary election – Brexit talks to start soon after the vote
  • 24 September – German parliamentary election, with Mrs Merkel seeking a fourth term
  • 29 March 2019 – Deadline for ending talks on UK exit terms (any extension requires agreement of all member states)
  • May or June 2019 – European Parliament election (without UK)
  • Ratification – Any Brexit deal requires ratification by all EU’s national parliaments and European Parliament

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AP



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Tokyo Subway Shut After Failed North Korean Missile Test


After North Korea’s failed missile test a Tokyo subway shuts down. (AFP)

London:  Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe branded North Korea a “grave threat” during his visit to London, after a failed missile test resulted in the shut down of a Tokyo subway, the media reported.

Mr Abe on Saturday called the failed test “absolutely unacceptable” and a “grave threat to our country”, as he spoke at the end of his three-day visit to Russia and Britain, the Daily Mail reported.

One of Tokyo’s major subways systems shut down all lines for 10 minutes after receiving warning of a North Korean missile launch.

Tokyo Metro official Hiroshi Takizawa said the temporary suspension affected 13,000 passengers on Saturday morning.

Mr Takizawa said it was the first time service had been stopped in response to a missile launch.

Train services are generally suspended in Japan immediately after large earthquakes.

Earlier on Saturday, North Korea launched a ballistic missile that blew up over land.

The main part of the missile landed approximately 35 km from Pukchang airfield, north of Pyongyang, according to CNN.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile flew for several minutes and reached a maximum height of 44 miles.



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Sea Of Climate Protesters Voice Displeasure Outside White House


Washington:  A sea of protesters swarmed in front of the White House on Saturday to voice displeasure with President Donald Trump’s stance on the environment and demand that he rethink plans to reverse the climate change policies backed by his predecessor.

The Peoples Climate March, the culmination of a string of Earth Week protests that began with last Saturday’s March for Science, coincides with Trump’s 100th day in office, the end of the traditional ‘honeymoon’ period for a new president.

As temperatures rose above 90 degrees Fahrenheit under hazy skies in the nation’s capital, tens of thousands of people marched from the grounds of the US Capitol and passed the White House en route to the Washington Monument for a rally.

Many of the protesters carried signs with slogans such as “The seas are rising and so are we” and “Don’t be a fossil fool.” As the procession passed the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, marchers booed and chanted “shame.”

“Enjoy the day, enjoy the weather,” Trump, speaking to reporters ahead of a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania commemorating his 100th day in office said when asked what he would tell those rallying on climate change.

While a good-natured mood prevailed and there were no signs of violence, many demonstrators said they were angered by the prospect of Trump carrying through on his vow to roll back protections put in place by his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama.

“We’re going to rise up and let them know that we’re sick and tired of seeing our children die of asthma,” said Rev. Leo Woodberry of Florence, South Carolina, who spoke during a press conference before the march. “We’re sick and tired of seeing people with cancer because of coal ash ponds. We’re sick and tired of seeing sea-level rise”.

Trump’s administration is considering withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, which more than 190 countries including the United States signed in hopes of curbing global warming. Trump has also proposed deep cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency and the elimination of many environmental regulations.
 

Donald Trump had earlier dismissed climate change as a hoax. (Reuters)

In his campaign, Trump called climate change a hoax. Last month he kept a promise to the coal industry by undoing climate-change rules put in place by Obama administration.

Tom McGettrick, 57, an electrical engineer who drove up from the Florida Keys to attend the march, said his main concern is the weakening of the EPA.

“Forty years of environmental protection has done wonders for the environment, especially in the Midwest,” said McGettrick, who spent most of his life in Michigan.

“When I was a teenager and went to Lake Erie, it was one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country,” he said. “Now when you go to Lake Erie it’s really beautiful.”

The Washington event, which coincided with Trump’s 100-day milestone, followed an exclusive interview with Reuters in which the president reflected wistfully on his life as a billionaire real estate developer that he left behind after his January 20 inauguration.

“This is more work than in my previous life,” Trump told news agency Reuters. “I thought it would be easier.”

Saturday’s march was part of an effort to build support for candidates with strong environmental records in the run-up to next year’s midterm elections and the 2020 presidential race, organizers said.

“We’re using this as a tactic to advance the strategy of building enough power to win on climate over the course of the long haul,” said Paul Getsos, national coordinator for the Peoples Climate Movement. Sponsors of Saturday’s events include labor unions, the Sierra Club and civil rights groups.

As a side theme, marchers will protest Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants and other issues he has championed.

Since Trump’s inauguration, there have been national protests focused on issues ranging from abortion rights to immigration and science policy.

Myron Ebell, a climate change skeptic at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank, said the march would have little impact on the administration.

“The real decisions are made in this country in elections, and we have now a president and a House and a Senate that are determined to pursue a pro-energy agenda,” he said by telephone.

Environmental activists believe public opinion is on their side. A Gallup poll this month showed 59 per cent of Americans agreed environmental protection should take priority over increased US energy production.

Dozens of ‘sister’ marches are planned for other North America locales, from Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, to Dutch Harbor in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Overseas, about three dozen events range from a protest in Vienna to a tree-planting event in Zambia.

(Additional Reporting by Patrick Rucker in Harrisburg and Pennsylvania, Writing by Frank McGurty, Editing by Franklin Paul and Bernard Orr)

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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China factory output growth slows


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Output in China’s factories and mines continued to expand in April but at a slower pace than in the previous month.

The purchasing manager’s index (PMI) was 51.2 in April, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said, down from a near five-year high of 51.8 in March.

A figure above 50 shows growth in the sector, a key driver of wider growth in the world’s second biggest economy.

The first quarter of 2017 has seen an acceleration in China’s GDP growth as well as a rebound in retail spending.

Robust trade data has also helped ease concerns about the strength of the economy following last year’s slowdown.

“Although the PMI has dropped slightly, we can also see the steady accumulation of positive factors,” NBS analyst Zhao Qinghe said in a statement.

Mr Zhao also highlighted increased production of consumer goods and improvements in small business activity as positive signs for the economy.

However analysts said growth may slow in the second quarter.

“The still-high output and new orders sub-indices suggest growth momentum likely remained resilient in April, albeit slower than in a strong March,” Zhao Yang of Nomura said in a note.

“Looking ahead, we see downside pressures looming and maintain our call for a shallow slowdown through the course of this year.”

Betty Wang of ANZ Research wrote in a note that the April data “suggests that China’s manufacturing activity might have retreated from its peak” in the first quarter.



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China 'Putting Pressure' On North Korea, Says Donald Trump


US State Secretary warned China of ‘catastrophic consequences’ if failed to pressure North Korea.

Washington:  Donald Trump thinks Chinese President Xi Jinping is ‘putting pressure’ on North Korea, the US president said in an interview to air Sunday, as tensions mount over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

If North Korea carries out a nuclear test ‘I would not be happy’, Trump told the CBS television network’s ‘Face the Nation’ program.

“And I can tell you also, I don’t believe that the president of China, who is a very respected man, will be happy either”, Trump said in excerpts of the interview released Saturday.

Asked if “not happy” signified “military action,” Trump answered, “I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see.”

North Korea test-fired a missile over the weekend in apparent defiance of a concerted US push for tougher international sanctions to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

The latest launch, which South Korea said was a failure, came just hours after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned the UN Security Council of ‘catastrophic consequences’ if the international community – most notably China – failed to pressure the North into abandoning its weapons program.

Trump assailed the failed launch as a show of disrespect toward its ally China.

“North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

North Korea is seeking to develop a long-range missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead.

China, Pyongyang’s number one trade partner, has repeatedly called for a return to talks on de-nuclearisation but has been reluctant to use economic pressure that could destabilise North Korea.



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General election 2017: No 'specific' May pledge on taxes


Theresa May says she will not be making “specific proposals” on taxes unless she is “absolutely sure” they can be delivered.

The PM was asked about the 2015 Tory pledge that certain taxes would never be raised, but declined to repeat it.

She added that her intention was to cut taxes for working families.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, she also rejected claims she was “in a different galaxy” to the rest of the EU on Brexit negotiations.

Asked whether she would be repeating ex-PM David Cameron’s “five-year tax lock”, covering income tax, National Insurance and VAT until 2020, Mrs May said: “We have absolutely no plans to increase the level of tax.

“But I’m also very clear that I do not want to make specific proposals on taxes unless I am absolutely sure that I can deliver on those.”

Speaking later on the Peston on Sunday show, she ruled out a VAT rise, saying “we won’t be increasing VAT”.

On the Marr show, the PM suggested the “triple lock” protecting the state pension could be changed, saying state pensions would continue to rise, with the exact method of calculations that is calculated to be revealed in the Tories’ manifesto.

The triple lock ensures the state pension increases in line with wages, inflation or by 2.5% – whichever is highest.

And after the 27 EU leaders agreed their Brexit negotiations, the PM said there was “good will” on both sides about settling the issue of EU nationals living in the UK, and Britons elsewhere in Europe.

She said recent comments by EU figures showed that talks could be hard, and stressed her determination to reach agreement on a trade deal at the same time as settling the terms of the UK’s exit.



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US Reassures South Korea To Shoulder THAAD Expenses, Joint Drills Wrap Up


Seoul:  South Korea said the United States had reaffirmed it would shoulder the cost of deploying the THAAD anti-missile system, days after President Donald Trump said Seoul should pay for the $1-billion battery designed to defend against North Korea.

In a telephone call on Sunday, Trump’s national security adviser, HR McMaster, reassured his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, that the US alliance with South Korea was its top priority in the Asia-Pacific region, the South’s presidential office said.

The conversation followed another North Korean missile test-launch on Saturday which Washington and Seoul said was unsuccessful, but which drew widespread international condemnation.

Trump, asked about his message to North Korea after the latest missile test, told reporters, “You’ll soon find out”, but did not elaborate on what the US response would be.

Trump’s comments in an interview with news agency Reuters on Thursday that he wanted Seoul to pay for the THAAD deployment perplexed South Koreans and raised questions about his commitment to the two countries’ alliance.

South Korean officials responded that the cost was for Washington to bear, under the bilateral agreement.

“National Security Adviser HR McMaster explained that the recent statements by President Trump were made in a general context, in line with the US public expectations on defence cost burden-sharing with allies,” South Korea’s Blue House said in a statement, adding that McMaster requested the call.

Major elements of the advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system were moved into the planned site in Seonjgu, in the south of the country, this week.

The deployment has drawn protests from China, which says the powerful radar which can penetrate its territory will undermine regional security, and from local residents worried they will be a target for North Korean missiles.

About 300 residents rallied on Sunday as two US Army lorries tried to enter the THAAD deployment site. Video provided by villagers showed protesters blocking the road with a car and chanting slogans such as “Don’t lie to us! Go back to your country!”.

Police said they had sent about 800 officers to the site and two residents were injured during clashes with them.

South Korea and the United States say the sole purpose of THAAD is to guard against North Korean missiles.

The United States is seeking more help from China, the North’s major ally, to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development. Trump, in the Reuters interview, praised Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as a “good man”.

Tensions High

The North has been conducting missile and nuclear weapons related activities at an unprecedented rate and is believed to have made progress in developing intermediate-range and submarine-launched missiles.

Tension on the Korean peninsula has been high for weeks over fears the North may conduct a long-range missile test, or its sixth nuclear test, around the time of the April 15 anniversary of its state founder’s birth.

In excerpts of an interview with CBS News released on Saturday, Trump said the United States and China would “not be happy” with a nuclear test but gave no other details.

Trump discussed the threat posed by North Korea in a telephone call with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, the White House said.

In an address to a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Saturday, Duterte urged the United States to show restraint after North Korea’s latest missile test and to avoid playing into the hands of leader Kim Jong Un, who “wants to end the world”.

Two-month long US-South Korean joint military drills were due to conclude on Sunday, US and South Korean officials said.

The exercise, called Foal Eagle, was repeatedly denounced by North Korea, which saw it as a rehearsal for war.

In a further show of force, the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group arrived in waters near the Korean peninsula and began exercises with the South Korean navy late on Saturday. The South Korean navy declined to say when the exercises would be completed.

The dispatch of the Carl Vinson was a “reckless action of the war maniacs aimed at an extremely dangerous nuclear war”, the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, said in a commentary on Saturday.

The carrier group has just completed drills with the Japanese navy.

Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada, in an apparent show of solidarity with Washington, has ordered the Izumo, Japan’s biggest warship, to protect a US navy ship that might be going to help supply the USS Carl Vinson, the Asahi newspaper said.

(Additional reporting by Yuna Kim and Minwoo Park in Seoul, Nobuhiro Kubo and Linda Sieg in Tokyo, Editing by Lincoln Feast and Clarence Fernandez)

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Jeff Bezos Is Just $5 Billion Away From Becoming World's Richest Person


Jeff Bezos’ fortune surpassed $80 billion for the first time, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

A surge in after hours trading for Amazon.com Inc. added $3.3 billion to the fortune of Jeff Bezos, putting him less than $5 billion away from becoming the world’s richest person.

Bezos saw his fortune surpass $80 billion for the first time, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The 53-year old has added $65.2 billion to his net worth since the index debuted in March 2012 and ended Thursday with a net worth of $79 billion. His net worth will surpass $80 billion on the index for the first time if the gains hold Friday.

Amazon shares added almost $50 after the company projected sales that may beat estimates in the current quarter, furthering an unbroken 20-year streak of double-digit revenue growth. Amazon had first-quarter sales of $35.7 billion and earnings of $1.48 a share, beating Wall Street analyst expectations. Shares closed at $918.38 Thursday and reached as high as $965 after hours.

The rise for Bezos beat the after-hours gains seen by Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The pair added $1.4 billion when shares of Google parent Alphabet Inc. rose as high as $938.18 on news that the smartphone ad business helped Alphabet post revenue of $20.12 billion and net income of $7.73 a share.

Page is now worth $44.7 billion and Brin $43.7 billion, the 11th- and 12th-richest people in the world Thursday.

Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates has been  No. 1 on the Bloomberg index since May 17, 2013. His fortune slipped $200 million to $87.1 billion after hours as Microsoft presented mixed results and slowing tablet sales growth.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Pope Urges International Mediation Over North Korea Crisis


Pope Francis has warned of a war in which “a good part of humanity” would be destroyed (File)

London:  Pope Francis has called for international mediation to ease escalating tensions over North Korea’s nuclear activity, the media reported on Sunday.

Speaking to the media on Saturday aboard his plane after a visit to Egypt, Pope Francis said: “There are so many facilitators in the world, there are mediators who offer themselves, such as Norway for example,” the BBC reported.

He warned that the situation had become “too hot” and said: the “path is the path of negotiations, of a diplomatic solution”.

He warned the crisis risked sparking a devastating war in which “a good part of humanity” would be destroyed.

His comments come hours after North Korea test-fired another ballistic missile on Saturday, which the US and South Korea confirmed that it exploded shortly after take-off.

The missile was fired from a site in South Pyeongan province, north of Pyongyang.



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ASEAN Gives Beijing A Pass On South China Sea Dispute


Rodrigo Duterte earlier said that its pointless discussing Beijing’s adventures in South China Sea.

Manila:  Southeast Asian leaders took a softer stance on disputes in the South China Sea during a summit that ended on Saturday, avoiding tacit references to China’s building and arming of its manmade islands, according to the chairman’s statement.

A final statement of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which was not made available until Sunday, dropped the references to ‘land reclamation and militarization’ included in the text issued at last year’s meeting in Laos and an earlier, unpublished version seen by Reuters on Saturday.

The outcome follows what two ASEAN diplomats said were efforts by Chinese foreign ministry and embassy officials in Manila to pressure ASEAN chair the Philippines to keep Beijing’s contentious activities in the strategic waterway off ASEAN’s official agenda.

It also indicates four ASEAN members who the diplomats said had wanted a firmer position had agreed to the more conciliatory tone in the statement.

China is not a member of ASEAN and was not attending the summit but is extremely sensitive about the content of its statements and considers it a barometer of the bloc’s dissent over its artificial islands in disputed waters.

China’s embassy in Manila could not be reached and its foreign ministry did not respond to request for comment on Saturday.

The ASEAN statement also noted ‘the improving cooperation between ASEAN and China’, and did not include references to ‘tensions’ or ‘escalation of activities’ seen in earlier drafts and in last year’s text. It noted some leaders’ concerns about ‘recent developments’.

Beijing has reacted angrily to members expressing their concern about its rapid reclamation of reefs in the Spratly archipelago and its installation of missile systems on them.

According to some experts, China is now capable of deploying combat aircraft on several of its manmade features.

Pointless To Pressure

The softened statement comes as the current ASEAN chairman, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, seeks to bury the hatchet with China after years of wrangling over its maritime assertiveness, including its four-year blockade of the Scarborough Shoal.

Beijing has quietly eased that, in response to Duterte’s request to allow Filipinos to fish there again.

Duterte set the tone for the meeting on Thursday when he told reporters it would be pointless discussing China’s maritime activities, because no one dared to pressure Beijing anyway.

An ASEAN diplomat on Sunday said the statement was a genuine representation of the atmosphere of the Manila meetings.

“We respected the Philippines’ views and cooperated with the Philippines as this year’s chair,” the diplomat said.

“It clearly reflected how the issue was discussed”.

Duterte’s foreign policy approach represents a stunning reversal of that of the previous administration, which had close ties with the United States and was seen by China as a nuisance.

The Philippines government in 2013 challenged Beijing by lodging a case with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2013.

Two weeks into Duterte’s presidency last year, the Hague court ruled in favour of the Philippines, angering China. But Duterte has made it clear he would not press Beijing to comply anytime soon, and is more interested in doing business than sparring.

The chairman’s statement issued on Sunday made no mention to the arbitration case.

However, it did include in a section separate to the South China Sea chapter the need to show “full respect for legal and diplomatic processes” in resolving disputes.

Underlining Beijing’s sensitivity about the arbitration case, the two diplomatic sources who spoke to Reuters on Saturday said Chinese embassy officials had lobbied behind the scenes for that sentence to be dropped, and saw it as a veiled reference to the ruling.

(Writing by Martin Petty, Editing by Lincoln Feast)

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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China-Europe In Talks To Settle Village On Moon


Moon village aims at serving as a launching pad for deep space missions such as one to Mars.

London:  China and Europe are planning to build the first-ever ‘Moon Village’ that could serve as a launching pad for deep space missions such as one to Mars, or even as a spot for space tourism and lunar mining.

Representatives of the Chinese and European space agencies have discussed collaborating on a moon-base and other possible joint endeavours.

The plan was first revealed by Tian Yulong, the secretary general of China’s space agency. Pal Hvistendahl, a spokesperson for the European Space Agency (ESA), confirmed the discussions.

“Space has changed since the space race of the sixties. We recognise that to explore space for peaceful purposes, we do international cooperation,” Mr Hvistendahl was quoted as saying by the ‘Independent’.

“The Chinese have a very ambitious moon programme already in place,” he said.

Johann-Dietrich Worner, the director general of the 22- member ESA, has described its proposed ‘Moon Village’ as a potential international launching pad for future missions to Mars and a chance to develop space tourism or even lunar mining.



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Japan Biggest Warship Since Word War II Will Escort US Supply Vessel


US Carl Vinson arrived in Sea of Japan and started joint drills with the South Korean navy on Saturday.

Tokyo:  Japan will dispatch its biggest warship since World War II to protect a US supply ship, as tensions mount in the region over North Korea, media reports said on Sunday.

The helicopter carrier Izumo will leave the mother port of Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, on Monday and join the US supply ship to escort it further into the western Pacific, the leading Asahi Shimbun daily and Jiji Press reported citing unnamed government sources.

It will be the first deployment – outside of troop exercises – to protect the US fleet after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expanded the country’s military capabilities in 2015, though they remain restricted under Japan’s pacifist constitution.

The US supply ship is expected to support America’s naval fleet in the Pacific, possibly including the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, which remains on high alert over North Korea’s ballistic missile firings, the reports said.

Japanese naval officials declined to comment on the reports.

Earlier this week, the US carrier had joint drills with Japan’s naval forces.

The Carl Vinson arrived in the Sea of Japan and kicked off a joint drill with the South Korean navy on Saturday, hours after North Korea launched a ballistic missile in apparent defiance of the US.

North Korea’s state media has said the North’s military is capable of sinking the US aircraft carrier with a single strike.

The latest missile launch, which South Korea said was a failure, ratchets up tensions on the Korean peninsula, with Washington and Pyongyang locked in an ever-tighter spiral of threat, counter-threat and escalating military preparedness.

US President Donald Trump, who has warned of a “major conflict” with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s regime, said the latest test was a pointed snub to China – the North’s main ally and economic lifeline.

“North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!” Trump tweeted.



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As Philippines Court China, Trump Invites Rodrigo Duterte To Washington


Relations between Philippines and US were considered an all time low under Obama administration.

Washington:  US President Donald Trump on Saturday invited his Philippine counterpart to Washington in a ‘friendly’ call in which the leaders discussed Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and their countries’ alliance, the White House said.

Duterte has faced international condemnation for his brutal crackdown on crime, which has claimed thousands of lives and led to warnings from rights groups about a possible crime against humanity.

The White House said the two leaders, who were both elected to office last year, had ‘a very friendly conversation’ that included discussion about the Philippine government’s efforts to ‘rid its country of drugs’ and the regional security threat posed by North Korea.

“President Trump also invited President Duterte to the White House to discuss the importance of the United States-Philippines alliance, which is now heading in a very positive direction,” the statement said.

There has been concern about Duterte’s efforts to loosen the Philippines’ long-standing alliance with the US as he looks to court China, whose push to control most of the disputed South China Sea has alarmed neighbours.

Duterte has regularly hit out at the Philippines’ one-time colonial ruler for perceived hypocrisy over human rights and last year branded then US president Barack Obama a ‘son of a whore’ for criticizing the drug war.

The White House said Trump ‘enjoyed the conversation’ with Duterte, and looked forward to attending the key US-ASEAN and East Asia summits in the Philippines in November.

Vice President Mike Pence had announced earlier this month that Trump would attend the Asian meetings as a sign of ‘unwavering commitment’ to the region.

Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella confirmed Trump’s invitation, although he gave no indication of when the visit would take place.

Philippine police have reported killing 2,724 people as part of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, although authorities insist the shootings have been in self defence.

Many thousands of others have been killed by shadowy vigilantes, according to rights groups.

A Philippine lawyer last week filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court accusing Duterte of mass murder, alleging his war on drugs had led to about 8,000 deaths.

Duterte’s pledge to stop the country turning into a narco-state has proved wildly popular with millions of Filipinos looking for a quick solution to crime and corruption.

Over the weekend some Southeast Asian leaders attending a regional summit in Manila also expressed support for the drug war, including Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo.



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World's Largest Amphibious Aircraft Finishes First Glide Test


Designed to be world’s largest amphibious aircraft, it has a maximum take-off weight of 53.5 tonnes.

Beijing:  China successfully conducted maiden glide test of its first amphibious aircraft AG600, stated to be the largest in the world, in the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai.

The glide test was conducted on April 29.

Other tests and check-ups are under way, according to the China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co Ltd.

Designed to be the world’s largest amphibious aircraft, the 37-meter AG600 with a wingspan of 38.8 meters, has a maximum take-off weight of 53.5 tonnes.

It can collect 12 tonnes of water in 20 seconds, and transport up to 370 tonnes of water on a single tank of fuel, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

With excellent maneuverability and a relatively wide search scope range, the AG600 will be mainly used for maritime rescue, forest fire fighting, marine environment monitoring and protection.

Aviation Industry Corp, Chinese state-owned aerospace and defense company said in March that AG600 would embark on its maiden flight over land in late May and on water in the second half of 2017.

The aircraft developer has received orders for 17 AG600s.



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May vows to protect pensions from 'unscrupulous bosses'


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The Tories will pledge to increase the powers of regulators over company pensions

Theresa May has announced plans to protect pensions from “unscrupulous” bosses if she wins the election.

The Tories will pledge to increase the powers of regulators over company pensions, including fines for employers who deliberately underfund schemes.

Following the BHS pension scandal, corporate takeovers could be blocked where the solvency of the company scheme appears to be threatened.

Meanwhile, Labour has unveiled a plan to strengthen rights at work.

Billionaire Sir Philip Green sold BHS for £1 in 2015 and a year later it went into administration with a £571m pension deficit.

Earlier this year, he agreed with the Pensions Regulator to pay £363m to settle the company’s pension scheme.

Mrs May said: “Today I am setting out our plans, if elected, to ensure the pensions of ordinary working people are protected against the actions of unscrupulous company bosses.

“Safeguarding pensions to ensure dignity in retirement is about security for families, and it’s another example of the choice in this election.”

The Pensions Regulator would also be able to impose large fines on bosses who “wilfully left a scheme under-resourced”, she said, and company directors could be struck off in more serious cases.

The Tories will also consider a new law to make it illegal to intentionally or recklessly put a pension scheme at risk.

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Mrs May criticised Labour leader Mr Corbyn, saying he was “weak, unstable, nonsensical and floundering” and said Labour had launched seven “conflicting” Brexit plans.

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Jeremy Corbyn is due to address the National Association of Head Teachers conference

Meanwhile, Labour has announced a 20-point plan to end the “rigged economy” in the workplace.

The plan includes giving all workers equal rights from day one; pledges to ban zero-hours contracts; guaranteeing trade unions a right to access workplaces; raising the minimum wage; banning unpaid internships; and amending company takeover rules to protect employees’ pensions.

Mr Corbyn is expected to address the National Association of Head Teachers conference in Telford later.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “These policies will be the cornerstone of the next Labour government’s programme to bring an end to the rigged economy that many experience in workplaces across Britain.

“The scandals of six million people earning less than the living wage, and four million children growing up in poverty, are not inevitable.

“It only takes a change of government to bring these outrages to an end.”



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Trump Says Media Deserves 'Big Fat Failing Grade', Skips Dinner With Them


President Donald Trump marked his 100th day in office with an event touting what he called his administration’s “historic progress,” even as his prime focus early in the campaign rally focused on his long-running antagonism with the news media.

Trump wasted no time mentioning the “big gathering” in Washington – the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, which he declined to attend – eliciting boos from the crowd in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as he dismissed the event as “a large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media” who he said were “consoling each other in a hotel ballroom.”

Pennsylvania Democrats and liberal protest groups turned out for an opposition rally and march in Harrisburg on Saturday to protest Trump, who chose to host his event in the very same city he referred to as “a war zone” during the campaign.

“This rally and march is to send a message to the president that he needs to be more moderate and more inclusive,” said Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse (D). “I hope he will look around and understand that he needs to do more than rally his supporters. He needs to listen to and speak with those who didn’t vote for him.”

Across the country as well, including Utica and Syracuse, New York, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago. In Washington, crowds gathered for the People’s Climate March in support of environmental protection efforts, some of which have been rolled back during Trump’s first 100 days.

Papenfuse spoke at a rally organized by the state Democratic Party across the street from the Trump event at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg. Democratic and liberal activists and grass-roots groups held a march from the center of the city to the rally site, bringing together the two protest events and yielding a combined crowd of hundreds of people.

The president announced last week that he would host a campaign rally to celebrate his 100th day in office. The event – scheduled for 7:30 p.m. – coincided with the annual correspondents’ dinner, which Trump elected not to attend in a break from tradition.

“I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington’s swamp, spending my evening with all of you, and with a much, much larger crowd and much better people, right?” Trump said at his event, not mentioning that he attended the dinner in 2011 while a reality television star and was repeatedly roasted by then-President Barack Obama.

Trump vowed that he would make “a big decision” on the historic Paris climate agreement in the next two weeks. Top Trump officials are divided about whether or not the United States should stay in or exit that agreement.

The president went on to touch on why he abandoned a campaign pledge to label China a currency manipulator, the possible threat posed by North Korea and the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. He vowed that his long-promised wall separating the United States and Mexico would be built. But before getting to that, Trump repeatedly needled the media, touching on familiar themes and picking on his standard targets.

He dismissed CNN and MSNBC as “fake news” before proudly noting that the term is now used widely. Trump decried what he again called “the totally failing New York Times,” falsely claiming that the organization was “forced to apologize” for its coverage of the 2016 election, a claim he has made before. He also took a shot at the newspaper’s headquarters, which he called an “ugly office building in a crummy location.”

Trump made clear that he was trying to draw a direct contrast with the news media, saying that they deserved “a very, very big fat failing grade” for their coverage, before shifting to a discussion of his administration’s actions.

Trump later returned to his media criticism, decrying how journalists pointed out that Trump broke his pledge to label China a currency manipulator. In a recent interview, Trump told the Wall Street Journal he had reversed course because he felt the country was no longer manipulating its currency and said he hoped the country could help deal with a nuclear threat from North Korea.

Saying that he hopes China is going to assist with North Korea – where he said “we have somebody there who’s causing a lot of trouble for the world” – the president added that it was not “exactly the right time to call China a currency manipulator right now.”

About two hours before Trump was scheduled to start speaking, more than 100 democratic and liberal activists gathered in a field across the street to express their opposition – in tones that quickly veered from jubilant to vehement and back again.

Chants included cries of “Hey hey, ho ho! Donald Trump has got to go!” and “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” The chanting was mostly good-natured, until a small group of hecklers showed up.

“The media has lied to you!” yelled one, Derrick Glenn, 43, who wore an Infowars jersey and soon found himself defending the truthfulness of Infowars host Alex Jones when a half-dozen of the Trump protesters surrounded him and started insulting Jones for “pushing conspiracy theories.”

“How about facts?” one woman shouted.

Within a few minutes, however, Glenn had shaken hands with a few activists – he thought the line was too long to get in to see Trump and decided to walk around – and then departed.

A separate group of a half-dozen young men in white polo shirts and close-cropped haircuts heckled the roster of Democratic speakers, making off-color jokes. They identified themselves as members of Identity Europa, a white identity movement. But after accusing one speaker of being “into cows,” they, too, seemed to relax and leaned against a fence to take in the scene, saying they are “disappointed” in Trump’s performance so far, citing his adherence to “pro-war, neocon policies.”

“This is what democracy looks like!” the crowd chanted, drawing smiles all around.

Denise Wilmarth, 65, stood in a field across from the Trump rally site, holding a sign that read “100 Days Of Lies, Hypocrisy, Rambling Ignorance.”

“I am afraid for the children,” said the Harrisburg resident, a retired district manager for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. “No one wants to say it, but bullying has gone up, harassment has gone up. I get responses on my Facebook page – people aren’t afraid to say the worst things they think anymore. And it’s scary.”

A volunteer with Suits to Careers, an agency that gives free clothes to poor people for job interviews, then outfits them when they’re hired, she’s seen the level of discourse and political thought sink for years. “My ex-husband, I left him two years ago. He voted for Sarah Palin because he thought she was hot.”

Josh McNeil, executive director of Conservation Voters of America, joined the growing crowd early, saying he’d decided to come to “make a statement that President Trump did not earn a mandate to destroy the environment. No one voted for him to dismantle the EPA, but that has been a priority of his first 100 days.”

Kirsten Moe, 74, also of Harrisburg and a retired accountant, said she “had to be here because he is in my town, and I need to represent my family.”

She said she is most concerned about the anti-scientific stand of the Trump administration. “He has turned his back on science and the environment,” she said.

Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach (D) drew cheers when he spoke, referring to Trump as the “orange plutocrat,” and rattling through the president’s entire Cabinet as being put in place to dismantle the government, including appointing “a secretary of education who has lived an entire lifetime of hostility toward public education.”

Papenfuse told the crowd that Trump had succeeded in one area – “inspiring the grass roots!” – to wild cheers from the people who stood in a wide semicircle to hear him.

For Papenfuse, Harrisburg’s mayor, the sense that there is distance – between Democratic activists and Trump supporters, between the president and his city – is the problem. As a candidate, Trump said the city “looked like a war zone” at a Virginia rally in August.

“You look at these big, beautiful plants that are just rotting. They’re just rotting. I flew into Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, yesterday and I looked down, and it looked like a war zone,” Trump told the crowd at that rally.

The city is coming off hard times, certainly, including a failed 2011 bankruptcy filing, and lists more than $400 million in debt – a big tab for a city with a population of just 49,000. The city went into a court-ordered state receivership but has since emerged from that order with a balanced budget and a rebounding housing market, with increased sales in 2016. Selling off a debt-ridden incinerator facility was key to the city’s overall recovery.

Moe said she was also bothered by what then-candidate Trump said about her city.

“When I heard he called it a war zone, I just thought it was crazy. This is my home, and I live in a lovely neighborhood.”

The rally and march Saturday included labor, women’s rights and environmental groups, among others, with state chapters of Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club listed among participants. Papenfuse said he has been hearing about many issues from constituents concerned about the policies Trump has pursued in his first 100 days – chiefly the possible elimination of block grants that help impoverished citizens with concerns such as heating, as well as broader concerns such as possible cuts in funding for education and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I think in general, citizens here believe it’s time for a serious discussion around these issues, on both sides,” said Papenfuse, “not continued polarization.”

By the time a representative from Planned Parenthood took the microphone, the crowd had swelled to almost 150 people. “We could lose our ambulatory care, maternity and newborn care . . . rehabilitative services, pediatric services,” said Carrie Fowler, a representative of the group. “Planned Parenthood serves a critical role in Pennsylvania, and losing access to care would be a health-care disaster,” she said, drawing a round of dispirited cheers.

There were perhaps 200 people on hand by the time Michael Blake, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, closed out an hour of speakers.

“Are you ready to fight?” he shouted. “Let’s be clear. We cannot just talk about the White House. We have to talk about the State House! And the school board!”

After the speakers finished, people drifted slowly away, to meet the march coming from a mile away. The hecklers had departed. And as the protesters began their trek through the city, still holding signs, numerous cars, passing on Cameron Street directly in front of the site of Trump’s rally, greeted them with cheers and honks, far outnumbering the people who leaned out their windows to jeer.

For the people in the march, the interaction between themselves and uniformly supportive motorists seemed restorative. Papenfuse had been told by city employees that Trump was visiting Ames True Temper, a manufacturing facility that makes shovels and wheelbarrows. The nearby farm show was already filled with Trump supporters, but those people, Harrisburg residents seemed to be saying, were all from out of town, from nearby suburbs and rural communities.

“Our solution to pollution,” they shouted, “is the people’s revolution. This is what democracy looks like!”

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Triple-lock: Call for pensions policy to be revamped


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One of the key figures behind the introduction of the triple-lock pension policy is calling for its revamp.

Steve Webb, pension minister from 2010 to 2015 and now a director at mutual insurer Royal London, has proposed a “middle way” on state pension policy.

Under triple lock, the state pension rises each April to match the highest of inflation, earnings, or 2.5%.

However, it is becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and some have called for it to be scrapped.

A recent review by former CBI director-general John Cridland, who was appointed as the government’s independent reviewer of state pension age last year, recommended that the triple lock be withdrawn in the next Parliament.

The Conservatives have not committed to maintaining it.

The Labour Party has said it will keep the policy in place through the next parliament.

How much does the triple-lock cost?

Labour pledges to keep the triple-lock

In his report for Royal London, Mr Webb proposed that the government retained the triple-lock for pensioners who retired before 6 April 2016.

Those retiring after that date would have their pension increases linked to earnings only. The report said the move would save almost £3bn per year by 2028.

It also said that, as newly retired pensioners are on average £100 per week better off than those aged over 75, the policy would increasingly target money on the older, poorer group.

“There’s a big difference between pensioners who retired 20 years ago… for whom the state pension really matters, and someone who just retired,” Mr Webb said.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionAngus Robertson: “Will the PM give a clear and unambiguous commitment to maintaining the triple lock on the state pension?”

Mr Webb says his proposals would control costs and give pension increases to those most in need.

“This is the first time that someone has said anything other than scrap it or keep it,” Mr Webb told the BBC.

He said the triple lock had delivered “big improvements” to pensioner incomes since 2010, but political parties would be concerned about the long-term cost implications of the policy “on top of increased spending on health and social care associated with an ageing population”.

But Tom McPhail, pensions expert at stockbrokers Hargreaves Lansdown, said the plan added a layer of complexity to pension policy.

“It would be better to review the triple-lock; the level of the state pension, which was set too low; and state pension ages as a complete package,” he said.

He added: “The challenge has always been how and when to move away from the triple-lock without upsetting a key constituency of voters.”



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'Go And Kill Yourself,' Teacher Told 11-Year-Old Student, Say Authorities


Ann Shelvin is accused of repeatedly bullying an 11-year-old student.

For months, an 11-year-old girl was bullied.

Authorities say other students were forced to start a fight with her.

At one point, they say, she was told to “go and kill yourself.”

The person responsible, according to investigators, is the girl’s seventh-grade teacher, Ann Shelvin, who now faces criminal charges. Another school employee, Tracy Gallow, who replaced Shelvin after she was escorted off school grounds, faces charges for continuing the bullying, St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby J. Guildroz said.

The two are employees at Washington Elementary School in Opelousas, Louisiana, about 60 miles west of Baton Rouge.

Guildroz said the 11-year-old’s mother first came to his office in February to report the bullying, although it apparently had been going on since the fall. The mother was told to report the incident to the St. Landry Parish School Board.

More than a month later, the mother returned to the sheriff’s office because the bullying had continued. Guildroz said an investigation revealed that Shelvin had told the 11-year-old to kill herself and threatened to fail three of her students if they didn’t start a fight with the girl.

One of the students admitted to detectives that Shelvin forced her to take part in the fight and that she did so because she was scared she would be treated like her classmate and fail seventh grade. Several students were sent to the principal’s office because of the fight.

Earlier this past week, the girl’s mother told investigators Shelvin has been bullying her daughter since October of last year, when the teacher threatened the 11-year-old that she’d fail her if she didn’t fight another student, Guildroz said. But instead of doing what Shelvin said, the girl, whom authorities did not name, reported her teacher to the principal.

Shelvin was then escorted out of the school. Gallow, a teacher’s aide who replaced her, was later seen on school video surveillance pushing the girl at the school gym, authorities said.

Shelvin, 44, was charged this week with two counts of encouraging or contributing to child delinquency, one count of malfeasance in office and two counts of intimidation and interference in the operation of schools. Gallow, 50, was charged with one count each of malfeasance in office, simply battery and intimidation and interference in school operation.

It’s unclear whether they have attorneys.

“Students should not have to attend school and be bullied especially by teachers that are there for their education, guidance and safety,” Guildroz said in a statement. “The parents did the right thing, they reported it to the school board, and continued to monitor and talk to their children. The bullying continued and they took the next step by contacting law enforcement again.”

Anthony Stanberry, member of the St. Landry Parish School Board, told local news outlet KLFY that school officials will not tolerate such incidents.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Turkey Just Banned Wikipedia, Labeling It A 'National Security Threat'


Turkish officials reportedly asked Wikipedia to remove content by writers “supporting terror.”

If you try to open Wikipedia in Turkey right now, you’ll turn up a swirling loading icon, then a message that the server timed out.

Turkey has blocked Wikipedia. If you’re inside the country, you can only access the online encyclopedia through a virtual private network connection to a system outside the country.

Turkish officials reportedly asked the online encyclopedia to remove content by writers “supporting terror.”

Wikipedia “has started acting as part of the circles who carry out a smear campaign against Turkey in the international arena, rather than being cooperative in fight against terror,” ministry officials said, according to Al Jazeera. It tried to show Turkey “at the same level and in cooperation with terror groups.”

The Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications told the Daily Sabah, a pro-government newspaper, that Wikipedia was blocked for “becoming an information source acting with groups conducting a smear campaign against Turkey in the international arena.” The ministry did not cite specific examples of offending content. Officials also said the site would not be unblocked until Wikipedia opened an office in the country and started paying taxes.

Turkish law allows the country’s leaders to ban access to websites deemed obscene or a threat to national security. A court has two days to decide whether the ban should be upheld.

This was just the latest crackdown on free speech and expression in Turkey. The monitoring group Turkey Blocks and other organizations have accused the government of occasionally blocking social-media sites such as Twitter or Facebook, particularly after militant attacks. (The government has denied this.) But according to the BBC, half of all requests to Twitter to remove offensive content have come from Turkey.

Many of these actions have come following a failed coup last year that has led to purges within the Turkish government. More than 120,000 people have been suspended or fired from the civil service, police and judiciary. Up to 40,000 people have been arrested.

On Saturday, the government announced the dismissals of nearly 4,000 additional people from state institutions – the second large-scale purge in days. On Wednesday, officials announced that they had detained more than 1,000 police personnel who were suspected followers of Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based cleric Turkey accuses of orchestrating the coup.

Online, critics speculated that Saturday’s block was really an effort to hide President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Wikipedia page, which includes criticisms of his leadership. Others pointed to a Wikipedia page on the recent referendum that expanded Erdogan’s powers. The page has a section headlined “Controversies and electoral misconduct,” and it cites claims that the government suppressed the “No” campaign through “arrests, control of the media and political suppression.”

Wikipedia’s editors, for their part, dealt with Saturday’s ban just as you’d expect – they drafted an article about it.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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'Very Productive' 100 Days In Office, 'Great Battles' Ahead: Donald Trump


Donald Trump said the record of his first 100 days has been very exciting and very productive.

Harrisburg, United States:  Donald Trump on Saturday hailed his “very productive” first 100 days as America’s president and told a cheering crowd of supporters “great battles” lay ahead.

In an enthusiastic, campaign-style rally in Pennsylvania — a key state in his election win — Trump said the record of his first 100 days “has been very exciting and very productive,” ticking off a list of what he said were his achievements.

He said he was now to “get ready for the great, great battles to come and that we will win in every case.”

The crowd often interrupted Trump with cheers of “USA!, USA!”

“So I have a question for you. You’ve been to a lot of rallies. First of all, is there any place like a Trump rally, in all fairness?”, Trump said after one burst of cheers.

Signs held up by the crowd had slogans such as “Promises made. Promises kept.”

Trump said major accomplishments in his first 100 days included seeing a Supreme Court nominee confirmed by the Senate, pulling the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord, a rising stock market and the easing of regulations on exploration for energy.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Hero's legacy


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Media captionThe Ayrton Senna Foundation is helping millions of students in Brazil

Twenty-three years after his death, former Formula 1 world champion Ayrton Senna’s name is almost as valuable as when he was alive – and it is making a difference in his home country of Brazil.

It is Friday afternoon and children around the age of 12 are gathered in the computer lab of a public school in Itatiba, a small town an hour away from Sao Paulo.

Class time is already over for the week, but these students have chosen to stay in school for extracurricular activities.

They are learning Scratch, a piece of software developed by MIT experts that aims to teach kids how to code.

Most public schools in Brazil don’t have computer coding in their curriculum. In fact, most schools are struggling to get kids to learn the basics, such as maths and Portuguese, as Brazil ranks among the worst countries in the world in school exams.

Image caption

The coding class is courtesy of the Ayrton Senna Foundation

Students and staff in Itatiba have little interest in Formula 1. But much of what is going on in the classroom is part of the legacy of legendary driver Ayrton Senna, killed in a tragic accident during the San Marino Grand Prix on 1 May 1994.

Senna family affair

The coding class is a project run by the Ayrton Senna Foundation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that was founded by Ayrton’s sister Viviane a few months after his death.

Most of the money for the Foundation comes from managing Senna’s brand and legacy.

Ayrton Senna is still one of the most valuable sporting brands in the world.

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Senna is still a beloved figure in Brazil

In the past five years, the foundation drew in about 1bn Brazilian reais (£250m; $320m) for the NGO.

And it’s all a family affair. While Viviane is the CEO of the foundation, her daughter Bianca is head of branding.

The foundation uses the money it raises to fund ambitious educational projects, which are today its core business.

“Usually companies have a philanthropic arm that helps society with social projects. We are the other way around. We are the only NGO I know that has a sports branding company inside it,” says Bianca.

Still a draw

Ayrton Senna is still a goldmine in terms of marketing.

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Juan Guerra/Instituto Ayrton Senna

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“We’re an NGO with a sports branding company inside it,” says Ayrton’s niece Bianca Senna

The strongest markets for Senna products are Brazil, the UK and Italy.

Research conducted in 2015 by the Boston Consulting Group suggests Senna is in the same league as tennis superstar Roger Federer and basketball legend Michael Jordan in terms of product endorsement potential.

Another survey of Brazilian athletes who competed in last year’s Rio Olympics – many of them too young to have seen Senna race – ranked him as their biggest source of inspiration, above past and present idols such as Neymar and Pele.

The foundation does its best to fully explore the marketing potential, licensing hundreds of products with Senna’s face and name on it.

It caters for two groups of consumers. The first are Formula 1 fans who buy products such as books, DVDs, helmets and collectible souvenirs.

Image caption

The foundation licenses hundreds of Ayrton Senna-themed items, like these action figures

And then there are products for the general public who may not necessarily enjoy racing, but like Senna for his charisma and values. These include toys and comic books for children and a food line of ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise.

Peerless brand

Marketing specialist Marcos Machado, from TopBrands Consultancy, says Senna’s tragic death while at the top of his game crystallised his image in the eyes of the public as a winner.

Most sports stars eventually lose their appeal when they get older and retire. Some devalue their own brands by getting involved in scandals – think Ryan Lochte and Tiger Woods.

“If you consider Senna as a brand, I don’t think he has many competitors,” says Machado.


Ayrton Senna’s career

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  • World champion three times – in 1988, 1990 and 1991
  • 161 grand prix starts
  • 41 wins
  • 65 pole positions
  • First race – 1984 Brazilian GP
  • First win – 1985 Portugese GP
  • Last win – 1993 Australian GP
  • Last race – 1994 San Marino GP

F1’s greatest drivers: Ayrton Senna


One of the brand’s strengths is that virtually all money from licensing goes to charity, not profit.

Education is the foundation’s core business. Over the past two decades, it has become one of the biggest NGOs in Brazil, helping 1.9 million children and training 60,000 teachers per year.

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Senna’s name is also used for a range of foodstuffs including mustard, mayonnaise and ketchup

It invests heavily in research to come up with what Viviane Senna calls “vaccines” – smart solutions that can be applied to many schools with low costs.

Social and emotional skills

Last year it achieved one of its greatest successes in Colegio Chico Anysio, a public school in Rio de Janeiro with students from low-income families.

The institute revamped the curriculum, training students in social and emotional skills such as resilience, discipline and determination, instead of focusing solely on traditional subjects, such as maths and languages. It even came up with special metrics to identify these skills.

And in the national students’ exam, Colegio Chico Anysio was ranked the fifth best school for its income level.

Image copyright
Ivan Franchet/Instituto Ayrton Senna

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The foundation aims for low-cost solutions that can work in many schools, says Viviane Senna

This year the institute is applying its “vaccine” to 20 other schools in the south of Brazil.

Its work does not come without criticism, though.

Teachers’ unions complain that social and emotional skills are personal traits – not skills to be measured – and that the foundation sees schools and teachers too much as enterprises.

Viviane Senna disagrees.

“If someone from the 19th Century travelled to our time, he wouldn’t see any difference in classrooms. But the rest of the world has been through a technological and scientific revolution.

“And it’s not just about bringing tablets and mobiles into students’ hands. It’s about giving them social and emotional skills to face our world.”

Uphill struggle

Despite some successes, Brazil’s level of education has been slipping recently in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) global rankings.

Brazil has 50 million children in school, aged between six and 16. Only one in five end up graduating from high school. All others are lost along the way.

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Keeping interest in Ayrton Senna’s name is likely to get harder as the years go by

The future is fraught with challenges for the foundation. All the work it does with schools needs to be approved by state and city governments, but public finances are collapsing in Brazil thanks to the recession.

On the branding front, it must keep the interest in Senna’s name alive, a task that is likely to get harder as years go by.

“The foundation has done outstanding work. And interest in Senna can be sustained, but not forever,” says Mr Machado.

“We have to be realistic. One day, Senna is going to be more of a distant memory than a real idol for young generations. You can keep his name alive, but not forever.”

On the racetrack, Ayrton Senna made a name for himself as a driver who could do things that seemed impossible. The foundation that now carries his name is trying to live up to that legacy.



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Green heating system accused of causing 'fuel poverty'


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Getty Images

Image caption

District heating is seen as a new cleaner, cheaper way to keep homes warm, but some residents say its not working as well as it should.

A heating system meant to reduce bills is leaving people in fuel poverty, according to campaigners and residents.

The government wants millions of us to get heat and hot water from “district heating networks” to help meet carbon reduction targets.

But residents on some networks say they are more expensive than traditional heating and have been beset with problems.

Providers are working to tackle issues and say some schemes work brilliantly.

Instead of having a gas boiler in every home, heat networks send heat and hot water to numerous properties along a system of underground pipes from one central communal heat source.

This could be a mini-power station in the middle of a housing estate, or waste heat from a recycling plant or a factory.

Image caption

Uzoamaka Okafor says the heating provided by the submarine power station has been beset with problems.

Those living on the Myatt’s Field North Oval Quarter estate get heat from a small power station in a building known as the submarine. The system, run by E.on, was installed when the estate was redeveloped.

Uzoamaka Okafor, chair of the residents’ association, said the problems were causing a lot of distress, particularly to elderly and vulnerable residents.

She said some smart meters did not work, which meant people were being sent high estimated bills, including some who were being asked for hundreds of pounds a month.

She said: “It’s been riddled with issues, from intermittent hot water and heating, a number of outages, to concerns around high estimates bills, customer service and technical faults.

“There are lots of residents that do not put their heating on at all; they go to bed early. I’ve bought one resident blankets, because she’s so distressed about bills she doesn’t want to put the heating on.”

Residents said some people were having to choose between heating and eating.

No food

A report about the problems on the estate, written by Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action and Stuart Hodkinson from the University of Leeds, said there had been heat outages on 48 days in four years.

It detailed individual cases of vulnerable people left without heat for weeks and months on end.

It also details the case of Edward Connell, an elderly man thought to have been suffering with a form of dementia who told people he was struggling with high bills. He died of heart failure in October. The report said there was no food in his flat when he died.

In February, after a meeting with E.on about problems on the estate, residents were sent a letter of apology by the head of the company’s heat division, Jeremy Bungey.

A spokesman told the BBC E.on did not agree with all of the points raised in the report, but acknowledged there had been issues.

He said many had been resolved some time ago. He urged anyone with problems with their smart meter to get in touch.

In relation to Mr Connell, he said: “This is clearly a very sad case, but we have no insight into the wider circumstances of his death and the factors which may have led to it.”

He said the company had spoken to Mr Connell a number of times when he moved into the property in 2015 and that in June, after providing a manual meter reading, he was found to be in credit.

‘Potential to reduce costs’

At the moment, 200,000 people rely on district heating, but the government is championing the system and has put up £320m in seed funding to encourage more heat networks to be built in towns and cities across England and Wales.

It wants 18-20% of heat to come from district heating by 2050, in a bid to help meet carbon reduction targets.

According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy website, heat networks “have the potential to reduce heating costs, in some cases by more than 30%“.

But some customers say they have not seen the promised savings, and a traditional gas boiler would be much cheaper for them.

Charles Montlake, who lives in New Capital Quay, Greenwich, has district heating in his flat which is also provided by E.on.

He was given £669 in an out-of-court settlement with the energy giant after he lodged papers with the small claims court saying he had been overcharged for his heating for a year.

E.on says it believes it offers Mr Montlake value for money.

80-year contracts

Unlike traditional energy customers, people like Mr Montlake on district heating cannot go to Ofgem to complain about bills, because district heating is currently largely unregulated.

Customers can go to the energy ombudsman and a body set up by a number of providers called the Heat Trust, but their powers are limited.

And while traditional power users can switch suppliers if they are not happy with pricing or customer service, those on district heating are locked into long contracts.

Mr Montlake told 5 live Investigates: “Our contract is for 25 years, so our current alternatives are move or don’t use heat.”

Ms London said she had come across contracts locking customers in for 40 and even 80 years, and estates where those who owned their own homes were moving house because they could not afford the mortgage and the heat bills.

She said the problem was particularly acute for people on low incomes, like some of those living on the Myatt’s Field North Oval Quarter estate.

She said: “It’s some of the worst fuel poverty we’ve seen.

“We’re afraid the same thing is going to happen to heating systems all over the UK, where people are actually not able to cover their heating costs and they’re going cold and potentially even losing their lives, as well as their health, as a result.

“The industry has to be regulated, it is absolutely not acceptable that it should be a wild-west situation where companies can do what they like.”

‘Tackled these issues’

Tim Rotheray, director of the Association of Decentralised Energy, said: “Across the country, these schemes have been lifting people out of fuel poverty and making cold homes warm.

“But any evidence of unhappy customers is a serious concern.

“A good experience for customers is not only vital for them, but also for the future of the industry.

“We recognise the new and changing nature of this industry means that sometimes quality and customer service standards are not good enough. The industry has tackled these issues head on.

“In March we launched a new task force, attended by consumer groups, investors, developers and observed by government and Ofgem.

“The group is examining both industry and regulatory options to ensure all aspects of consumer protection can be an integral part of enabling new investment.”

To hear more about this story, tune into 5 live Investigates on Sunday April 30 at 11am or listen to the podcast.



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Pope Francis Celebrates Mass In Egypt, Urges Unity Against Fanaticism


Pope Francis blessed Egypt as one of the earliest nations to embrace Christianity. (Reuters)

Cairo:  Pope Francis warned against religious fanaticism on Saturday, wrapping up a brief trip to Cairo where he urged Muslim leaders to unite against violence by terrorists threatening to rid the Middle East of its ancient Christian communities.

Francis’ trip comes three weeks after ISIS killed at least 45 people in attacks on two Egyptian churches. He has used the visit to launch a strong appeal for religious freedom and to accuse terrorists of distorting the nature of God.

After a dense first day of meetings with political and religious leaders, the highlight on Saturday was a Mass in the Air Defence Stadium, where Vatican officials said 15,000 people gathered, among them Coptic bishops and senior Anglican figures.

Crowds arrived early, waving Egyptian and Vatican flags and braving intense security measures to welcome Francis, who toured the sun-drenched stadium in a golf buggy to the sound of hymns performed by a choir and orchestra.

He blessed Egypt as one of the earliest nations to embrace Christianity and repeated his plea for tolerance.

“True faith leads us to protect the rights of others with the same zeal and enthusiasm with which we defend our own,” he told the crowd in the heavily guarded arena.

“The only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity. Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him,” he said in his homily.

In a series of speeches during his two-day stay, the pope has delivered his bluntest denunciations yet against religious violence, and has appeared to endorse Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s campaign against terrorists.

However, he nuanced his message by lamenting the rise of “demagogic forms of populism” – a possible reference to right-wing nationalist parties in Europe pushing anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim agendas.

He also defended human rights – which non-governmental organisations have accused Sisi’s administration of abusing.

“History does not forgive those who preach justice, but then practice injustice,” he said in a speech on Friday, sharing the stage with Sisi, who warmly applauded his words.

Strict Security

The unusual choice of venue for Saturday’s religious service highlights the security concerns surrounding the trip.

Helicopter gunships circled the perimeter of the stadium and armoured military vehicles patrolled the streets of the Egyptian capital on Saturday. Police in white uniforms were positioned every few metres (yards) on a Nile bridge that the pope crossed.

The 80-year-old pope himself declined the use of an armoured limousine, preferring instead to travel in an ordinary Fiat car with its window wound down so he could be closer to onlookers.

Francis had lunch with Egyptian bishops and was later leading prayers at a Catholic seminary in the south of Cairo before heading back to Italy in the late afternoon.

The visit was the first by Francis to Cairo but the second by a Catholic pope. Pope John Paul II came to Egypt in 2000, a year before the September 11 attacks on the United States that convulsed Western relations with the Muslim world.

Egypt’s Christians comprise 10 percent of the 92 million population, making them the largest Christian community in the Middle East. Most Egyptian Christians are Coptic Orthodox, while barely 200,000 are members of Churches within the Roman Catholic fold.

While Egypt has escaped the sort of sectarian violence that has decimated ancient Christian communities in Syria and Iraq, it is under threat from ISIS who launched a campaign in December to wipe out Egypt’s Christians, carrying out three church attacks that have killed more than 70 people.

The campaign presents a challenge for Sisi, who has vowed to crush terrorist and is fighting in North Sinai, where ISIS have forced hundreds of Copts to flee.

Sisi, who declared a three-month state of emergency after the Palm Sunday church attacks, appealed for more international cooperation to combat terrorism when he met Francis on Friday.

(Writing by Crispian Balmer and Lin Noueihed, Editing by Giles Elgood)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Donald Trump Touts First 100 Days Despite Widespread Criticism


Donald Trump is celebrating his first 100 days in the White House on Saturday.

Washington, United States:  Donald Trump is celebrating his first 100 days in the White House on Saturday as one of the most successful in US history despite widespread criticism over a presidency plagued by disruption, confusion and chaos.

Critics are marking the milestone by lambasting his struggle to convert campaign promises into tangible achievements, which his supporters blame on obstruction by his opponents.

Under a relentless spotlight since stunning the world in November with a victory over his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, the 45th US president has seen his bid to tear up his predecessor’s landmark health-care reforms founder in Congress, where many of his other legislative priorities have also run up against cold political gamesmanship.

Funding for his promised wall along the US border with Mexico was stripped from a federal spending bill in order to prevent a government shutdown.

His bare-bones tax plan, hastily unveiled this week in the hope of burnishing his first 100 days with a success story, has been savaged as a multi-billion-dollar giveaway to the wealthy that will send the national debt soaring.

Trump has signed dozens of executive orders, including several that roll back Obama-era regulations on industry or lift bans on oil and gas drilling, efforts Republican lawmakers and voters widely praised.

But US courts have blocked his most high-profile order, a temporary ban on citizens from several Muslim-majority countries entering the United States.

Trump has put on a brave face nevertheless.

“The first 100 days of my administration has been just about the most successful in our country’s history,” the real estate billionaire said in his weekly address on Friday, despite having called the 100-day milestone arbitrary, “a false standard.”

Under pressure

Trump will escape the pressures of his office for a campaign-style rally in front of a typically adoring crowd Saturday evening in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

But even if his core supporters still fully back him, he is the least popular US leader in modern times at this stage of his presidency, polls show.

Democratic lawmakers have gleefully described his opening century mark as a slow-motion train wreck, a period of dramatically diminished stability, legislative failures and broken campaign pledges.

Much of the news media carried that message on Saturday.

A New York Times editorial titled “100 Days of Noise From Donald Trump” excoriated his ignorance of policy and politics and warned about his danger to American institutions. “Governing, so far, has turned out to be more than Mr. Trump can manage,” the paper wrote.

“His determination to leverage his office to expand his commercial empire is the only objective to which Americans, after 100 days, can be confident this president will stay true.”

Demonstrators in New York City staged a march under the banner “100 Days of Failure,” while tens of thousands at the People’s Climate March in Washington criticized his rollbacks of environmental protections and Obama administration climate policies.

But Trump’s supporters blamed any shortcomings on obstruction from Democrats.

Fox News, a favorite among conservatives, topped its website with an article praising Trump’s record under the headline: “100 days of disruption: How Trump rewrote the presidential playbook as Dems tried to derail plans.”

Republicans have rallied behind his one palpable achievement: the appointment of the conservative judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

But warning signs have tempered any positivity, including Friday’s Commerce Department announcement that US economic growth slid to its lowest level in three years during the first quarter of 2017.

And the White House is under the cloud of investigations by Congress and the FBI into Russia’s apparent interference in last year’s US elections, and whether there was any collusion with the Trump campaign.

Rising global tensions are also preoccupying the White House. The United States has pledged to step up sanctions to force North Korea to resume dialogue over its nuclear program, as Trump warned of the risk of a “major conflict” with Pyongyang.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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First Lady Mostly Absent From White House During First 100 Days


Melania Trump most notable public appearance occurred in late March at the Department of State.

Washington:  The First Lady of United States arrived at the White House with President Donald Trump on Inauguration Day but has been mostly absent ever since and continues to live in New York with her only child.

Melania Trump also is not expected to be a very active First Lady when she moves into the presidential residence on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, a transition she plans to make once her 11-year-old son Barron finishes his current school year, EFE news reported.

The former Slovenian model, who turned 47 earlier this week, is apparently a very private person who has little interest in politics, Ohio University professor Katherine Jellison, whose research has partly focused on US first ladies, told EFE.

During Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office, her most notable public appearance occurred in late March at the Department of State, where she pledged the US would closely monitor nations that fail to protect women’s rights and work to combat gender-related violence.

At that International Women of Courage Awards event, which honoured 13 brave women, Trump’s wife gave a speech lasting just 10 minutes.

She has made just a few other public appearances without her husband.

In February, Melania Trump visited the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington with Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and in early March she met with children in the pediatrics unit playroom at the New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Centre.

She has been seen more frequently in the company of her husband, recently taking part in the White House’s traditional Easter Egg Roll event, visiting wounded soldiers at a military hospital outside Washington, participating in an event to honour the National Teacher of the Year and welcoming Argentine President Mauricio Macri and his wife, Juliana Awada, to the White House.

The First Lady also normally has travelled to Mar-a-Lago when the President has decided to spend the weekend at his estate in Florida.

Jellison said she cannot envision Melania advising or differing with her husband on political matters, although she said she may give him recommendations relating to his style as the head of state, such as urging him to stop sending out his regular daily barrage of early-morning tweets.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Pope Francis Calls For North Korea Negotiations


Pope Francis called for negotiations to resolve tensions surrounding North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Pope Francis on Saturday called for negotiations to resolve tensions surrounding North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Speaking on board the papal plane on his way back from a two-day visit to Egypt, the pontiff said there was a need for “negotiations with a view to a diplomatic solution”.

“There are plenty of mediators in the world who are putting themselves forward. Norway, for example which is ready to help,” he said.

Reprising his theme of “world war in parts”, Pope Francis said that these were “concentrated at points that were already hot. In Korea, today, it seems that things are becoming too heated.”

North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile Saturday in apparent defiance of a concerted US push for tougher international sanctions to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

The latest launch, which South Korea said was a failure, came just hours after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned the UN Security Council of “catastrophic consequences” if the international community — most notably China — failed to pressure the North into abandoning its weapons programme.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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French Elections: Le Pen Says Would Appoint Dupont-Aignan Prime Minister


Nicolas Dupont-Aignan has been defeated in the first round of presidential elections. (Reuters)

Paris:  French far-right presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen on Saturday named defeated first-round candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan as her chosen prime minister, a bid to attract his voters and help win victory over the centrist favourite Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Dupont-Aignan is a nationalist whose protectionist economic policies are close to those of the National Front’s Ms Le Pen and who, like her, wants to reduce the powers of European Union institutions.

He scored 4.7 percent of votes in the first round on April 23, and announced on Friday that he was backing her for the decisive May 7 second round in eight days time.

“We will form a government of national unity that brings together people chosen for their competence and their love of France,” she said at a Paris news conference side by side with her choice.

Mr Dupont-Aignan, who stood in the election for his party ‘Stand up France’ said he had signed an agreement on the future government with Ms Le Pen that took into account some ‘modifications’ of her programme.

Mr Dupont-Aignan has expressed differences with the Le Pen on social issues in the past, and has opposed her call for the reintroduction of the death penalty.

In the past he has called his party ‘Gaullist’ after followers of the late president of the centre-right Charles de Gaulle. In 2013, he tweeted “We are Gaullists and cannot align ourselves with the extreme right.”

Polls on Friday showed centrist Mr Macron winning the French presidential runoff with 59-60 percent of votes, with Ms Le Pen having gained some ground in voter surveys since the start of the week.

Mr Macron, on a campaigning trip in central France, said the alliance clarified the choice on offer to voters between those who are anti-European and those who have more ‘progressive’ views.

Earlier, Mr Macron’s party En Marche! (Onwards!) called on Ms Le Pen to condemn comments her father made about a ceremony for a policeman who was killed in an attack in Paris last week.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, 88 years old and the founder of the National Front, objected to a speech made to the ceremony by the gay officer’s partner.

“The long speech he made in some way institutionalised homosexual marriage, exalted it in a public way, and that shocked me,” Ms Le Pen senior said in an interview on his website that was aired on Friday.

“Marine Le Pen has still not firmly condemned these comments,” a statement released by En Marche! said on Saturday.

Ms Le Pen was asked on Friday whether the speech by the policeman’s partner shocked her the way it did her father. She replied that, on the contrary, she had found the ceremony and the speech moving.

Controversial comments from her father on a range of subjects from criticism of gay marriage to his suggestion that World War Two Holocaust was a ‘detail’ of history have dogged Ms Le Pen’s efforts to rid the party of its extremist image.

On Friday, associations made between the National Front and Holocaust denial returned to the political stage after one of its senior officials was forced to step aside to defend himself from allegations, resurfacing after more than a decade, that he had agreed with comments from a professor who has been convicted of incitement to racial hatred.

(Editing by Andrew Callus and Ros Russell)

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Japan's Shinzo Abe Warns Of 'Confusion' Without UK/EU Brexit Deal


Japan’s Shinzo Abe reassured Theresa May over trust in Britain economy even after Brexit. (AFP)

London:  Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday urged Britain and the European Union to secure a “smooth and transparent” separation, saying that open trade in Europe was “a matter of concern to the world”.

Abe met with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday, assuring her that he “continued to trust the UK economy after separation from the European Union,” he told a press conference in London on Saturday.

But he warned that “all the stakeholders, including investors from countries outside the region” needed to have “clear future prospects” in a post-Brexit Britain.

More than 1,000 Japanese companies do business in Britain, employing some 140,000 local people, and Japan’s direct investment in the country has topped 10 trillion yen ($96 billion) to date.

Japan has already warned that businesses with their European headquarters in the UK may decide to transfer their head-office function to continental Europe if EU laws cease to be applicable in the UK after its withdrawal.

Japan’s major automakers have so far backed the British economy with Toyota announcing a £240 million investment in a car assembly plant while Nissan gave the green light to new investments at its plant in northeast England.

The announcements raised questions about what assurances they had been offered by the British government.

EU president Donald Tusk said Friday that Britain must first settle the divorce issues of “people, money and Ireland” before any talks on a post-Brexit trade deal.

Abe said he was worried about Britain suddenly leaving the bloc.

“Maintaining an open Europe is a matter of concern to the world,” he said. “If the rules change overnight, there will be a concern about a possible confusion arising.

“I highly regard that the UK attaches importance to a smooth and transparent process including setting a transition period,” he told the London press conference.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Indian's Death Penalty Upheld For Killing Baby, Grandmother


Raghunandan Yandamuri was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder after 2 days of jury

New York:  The death sentence of an Indian techie has been affirmed by Pennsylvania’s high court in the 2012 murders of a 10-month old baby and her grandmother following a botched kidnapping plot to pay for his gambling.

Raghunandan Yandamuri was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder after two days of jury deliberation following a month-and-a-half-long trial in October 2012.

He was sentenced to death in 2015 for the killings of Saanvi Venna and her 61-year-old grandmother Satayrathi Venna.

Yandamuri was a technology professional from India and knew the baby’s parents.

A report in WRAL.com said Pennsylvania’s high court affirmed the death sentence yesterday for Yandamuri, who had carried out a botched kidnapping plot to pay for his gambling habits.

Though Yandamuri has been sentenced to death, there is a statewide moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania.

The investigation into the murders began when police were called to an apartment complex in Pennsylvania for a report that a woman had been killed and child was missing. Police soon learned from the dead woman’s son that his daughter was missing and he had found a ransom note at the scene of the crime demanding USD 50,000 for his daughter’s life.

The ransom note had used nicknames for the baby’s parents that only very few people knew. Investigators soon found Yandamuri, who admitted after several hours of questioning to the killings. He then told police he had put the body of Saanvi Venna in the sauna of the apartments after she died.

Yandamuri told investigators he panicked and the deaths were accidental. He had served as his own lawyer and at trial said he was pressured into confessing.



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North Korea Missile Launch 'Absolutely Unacceptable': Shinzo Abe


Shinzo Abe has termed North Korea’s latest missile launch as a grave threat to Japan (AFP)

London:  Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday called North Korea’s test-fire of a ballistic missile “absolutely unacceptable” and a “grave threat to our country”.

Speaking in London, Abe called upon the international community, in particular China, to “show solidarity” in formulating a response.

“There is a major crisis looming over the peace and prosperity of the world,” he told reporters at the end of a three-day visit to Russia and Britain.

“Despite strong warnings by the international community, North Korea today went through with its ballistic missile launch.

“It is a grave threat to our country, this is absolutely not acceptable, we strongly condemn such acts.

“Our country will be resolute in our response,” he vowed.

North Korea test-fired the missile Saturday in apparent defiance of a concerted US push for tougher international sanctions to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

The latest launch, which South Korea said was a failure, came just hours after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned the UN Security Council of “catastrophic consequences” if the international community — most notably China — failed to pressure the North into abandoning its weapons programme.

Abe said G7 leaders meeting in Italy next month, “shoulder a huge responsibility” in responding to the threat.

“The international community must display solidarity,” he said, adding that he had agreed with Russia President Vladimir Putin on Thursday that Russia, China, Japan, US and South Korea all needed to cooperate closely on the issue.

He singled out China as being “extremely important” in resolving the crisis given its UN Security Council role and that it accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s trade.

“For the denuclearisation of North Korea, I hope China will play a constructive role in the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions. It is my high expectation that China will perform its role properly.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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European Union Adopts Tough Brexit Talks Stance


The European Union adopted their strategy on Brexit in first meeting without Britain. (File Photo)

Brussels:  European Union leaders unanimously adopted their Brexit strategy at a special summit in Brussels on Saturday, in a show of unity ahead of two years of tough talks with Britain.

The 27 leaders quickly agreed on the negotiating guidelines as they met without Britain for the first time since Prime Minister Theresa May triggered the divorce process a month ago.

They say talks on a future trade deal with Britain can only start once London agrees divorce terms on citizens’ rights, its exit bill and Northern Ireland.

“Guidelines adopted unanimously. EU27 firm and fair political mandate for the Brexit talks is ready,” EU President Donald Tusk said on Twitter, shortly after the summit began.

Leaders adopted the guidelines, unchanged, within one minute, an EU source said.

Tusk earlier said leaders “need to remain united as the EU 27” but said it was “also in Britain’s interest” if unity boosted the chances of a swift Brexit deal.

May this week accused the EU of ganging up on London, in a war of words with German Chancellor Angela Merkel who said Britain had “illusions” about the talks.

Brexit has offered the EU a fresh chance at unity after years of bitter internal divisions over the euro and migration, although many still fear they could fall out during the talks.

‘Cost for Britain’

French President Francois Hollande said as he arrived that “the aim of the summit is unity”, adding that “there will inevitably be a price and a cost for Britain.”

Merkel said the EU wants “good relations” with Britain but added that “we also want to defend, at 27, our common interests — so far we have done extremely well.”

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the bloc had a “clear line” on the talks. “But this unity is not directed against Britain, I think that it is also in its interest,” he said.

The EU 27 have considerably toughened the guidelines since Tusk first unveiled them a month ago, with Brussels also drawing up a detailed list of citizens’ rights.

Tusk said this issue — the fate of three million EU citizens living in Britain and one million Britons on the continent — “must be number-one priority for EU and the UK.”

Officials hope for agreement on this by the end of the year.

In a further move that will rile London, the EU is also set to back automatic membership for Northern Ireland if it reunifies with Ireland, and call for Spain to have a say over any deal that affects Gibraltar.

The leaders will also discuss for the first time the spoils of Brexit — the relocation of EU medical and banking agencies that are currently based in London.

The EU guidelines say that only when “sufficient progress” has been made on divorce issues can these trade talks begin, with sources saying they hope to do that by the end of the year.

EU leaders were discussing how to define this progress after approving the guidelines at the summit, EU officials said.

‘Theresa’s Brexit’

While the EU says citizens’ rights is a priority, the most touchy issue of all is likely to be Britain’s exit bill.

This is estimated at around 60 billion euros ($65 million), which mainly covers financial commitments made by the bloc while Britain was a member.

The bill is politically toxic for Britain but also risks causing divisions among EU states as they debate how to plug any holes in the EU’s budget.

May’s decision to call a general election in Britain on June 8, in a bid to shore up her mandate and strengthen her negotiating position, has only stiffened their resolve.

The elections are “an internal problem she wants to resolve in the Conservative party, to have not a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit, but Theresa’s Brexit,” said Luxembourg’s prime minister Xavier Bettel.

Actual Brexit talks are not expected to begin until after the British election, although the EU is set to give an official mandate to Barnier on May 22.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Tokyo Subway Stops For 10 minutes Over North Korea Missile Scare


Tokyo Metro were forced to a quick use of their new rules to stop trains in case of a missile launch.

Tokyo:  Tokyo’s main subway system suspended its service for 10 minutes Saturday morning, shortly after North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile.

It was the first time Tokyo Metro took such a step, following the adoption of new rules this month to stop trains and check for safety in response to news of any missile launches that can potentially hit Japan, local media said.

Trains were stopped at 6:07 am (2107 GMT) after the launch which happened around 2030 GMT, according to national broadcaster NHK.

Around 13,000 people were affected by the halt in service, Kyodo News said.

“It (subway suspension) was a decision of the operator,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a briefing.

“We ask that people stay calm and stay informed. At this time, the latest incident has absolutely no impact on Japan,” he said.

North Korea test-fired the missile in apparent defiance of a concerted US push for tougher international sanctions to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

The missile launch, which apparently failed, came as Japanese people began the annual Golden Week holiday season.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called Pyongyang’s move “absolutely unacceptable” and a “grave threat to our country”, speaking in London at the end of a three-day visit to Russia and Britain.

The launch came just hours after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned the UN Security Council of “catastrophic consequences” if the international community — most notably China — failed to pressure the North into abandoning its weapons programme.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Italian Woman Returns Mixed-Race Baby To Surrogate


The baby’s biological as well as fake mother have both been arrested. (Representational)

Rome:  After faking a pregnancy to fool her family, an Italian woman discovered a baby she bought from a young Romanian was of mixed race and gave it back three days later, Italian media said Saturday.

The baby’s biological mother, the “fake” mother and a Moroccan man who allegedly served as an intermediary in the arrangement have been arrested. 

The 35-year-old woman allegedly paid 20,000 euros (around $22,000 dollars) for the baby, who was born to the Romanian woman after a short relationship with a man from Mali, according to press reports. 

Investigators were alerted in Latina, south of Rome, after the two women called local authorities in February asking how to register a baby born at home. Authorities grew suspicious after the women did not turn up for a scheduled meeting. 

When police went to question the adoptive mother, she said she had faked the pregnancy, using latex belly prostheses bought on the internet. Her partner was in prison and she had recently undergone two miscarriages, the papers reported.

When she discovered the baby was of mixed race, however, the woman didn’t know how to explain the baby’s skin colour to her family and friends.

Police found the baby girl with the biological father, who works in Rome. She has been placed in foster care but may return to her father.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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European Union Leaders Re-Unite In One Voice On Brexit Demand


Brussels:  European Union leaders endorsed a stiff set of divorce terms for Britain at a summit on Saturday, rejoicing in a rare show of unity in adversity but well aware that may start to fray once negotiations begin.

Meeting for the first time since British Prime Minister Theresa May formally triggered a two-year countdown to Brexit in late March, the 27 other EU leaders took just a minute as they sat down to lunch in Brussels to approve 8 pages of negotiating guidelines hammered out by their diplomats over the past month.

“Guidelines adopted unanimously. EU27 firm and fair political mandate for the Brexit talks is ready,” summit chair Donald Tusk tweeted. Leaders applauded, officials said, after formally adopting unmodified the text drafted by their aides.

Those will bind Michel Barnier, their chief negotiator, to seek a deal that secures the rights of 3 million EU expats living in Britain, ensure London pays tens of billions of euros Brussels thinks it will be owed and avoids destabilising peace by creating a hard EU-UK border across the island of Ireland.

“We are ready”, Barnier said. “We are together”.

They also rule out discussing the free trade deal May wants until they see progress on agreeing those key withdrawal terms.

“Before discussing the future, we have to sort out our past”, Tusk said in comments echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said ‘substantive issues’ must first be settled.

In a mark of how last year’s Brexit vote has called into question the unity of the United Kingdom itself, leaders will also offer Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny a pledge that if Northern Ireland, which voted against Brexit, ever unites with his country, it will automatically be in the EU.

The leaders may spend more time in discussions, including with Mr Barnier, on what criteria they may use to judge, come the autumn, whether he has made sufficient progress to warrant a start on trade talks. They may also talk about how to manage a transition, after Britain leaves in 2019, to a new relationship likely to take many more years to finalise.

That decision on what is ‘sufficient’ is the kind of debate that can poison relations as the 27 seek to protect national interests. Also contentious will be which countries scoop the prizes of hosting two EU agencies set to be moved from London.

With most of the 27 offering to house the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and several wanting the European Banking Authority (EBA), Tusk and EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker will propose criteria for making the choices to avoid unseemly rows.

“We are remarkably united,” one national leader who will be at the table told Reuters. “But then it’s always easy to be united on what you want before you start negotiating.”

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel warned against falling into a “trap” where Britain divided the bloc to its advantage.

Differences

Among possible differences, the priorities of poor, eastern states are to secure residency rights for their many workers in Britain and British money for the EU budget, Germany and others set store by a smooth transition to a new free trade agreement.

Unwonted unity has been forged by the shock of Brexit, it breaks a taboo and raises fears of further break-up at the hands of nationalists like French far-right leader Marine Le Pen. She will contest her country’s presidential election run-off on May 7, though few expect her to beat centrist Emmanuel Macron.

The EU sees it as vital that Britain not be seen to profit from Brexit to dissuade others from following suit.

However, some officials are also voicing concern that the process of weaving maximalist demands into the negotiating text could risk souring the atmosphere with May, who expects to start talks shortly after the UK election she has called for June 8.

Senior officials in Brussels believe the risk of a breakdown in talks that could see Britain simply walking out into chaotic legal limbo in March 2019 has diminished since May wrote to Tusk on March 29 in terms recognising a need to compromise.

Merkel, facing her own election in September, warned Britain last week against lingering “illusions” of how much access it can get to EU markets. And some diplomats fear the tone of EU demands sounds too aggressive and may create a popular backlash in Britain that might make it hard for May to strike a deal.

“These are legally solid arguments,” one said, noting for example a demand Britain not only lose the EMA and EBA but also pay the moving costs. “But we don’t want to sound too punitive.”

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said, “They are maybe not any more in our family but they are still our neighbours so we should have respect for each other”.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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